Thanksgiving 2021 His steadfast love endures forever Psalm 136

His steadfast love endures forever

Psalm 136

 

Good morning! Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Christmas season has officially started! Go ahead and turn in your Bibles with me, we will be anchored in Psalm 136. If you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Luke recounts a story in his Gospel about Jesus walking between Samaria and Galilee, on his way to Jerusalem. He came upon a group of 10 lepers. The lepers called out to him and asked for healing. Jesus cleansed them from their leprosy and sent them to the priest for their ceremonial cleansing. One of those lepers returned to Jesus and gave thanks to him for his healing and cleansing, a Samaritan. Luke then recounts Jesus exclaiming, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18) He speaks as if expecting all ten to return thankful, not just the one.

One of the clearest messages from the Bible is that God deserves our thanks. Were all 10 lepers grateful for their healing? Were all 10 happy that they were healed?  Sure, but only one was thankful, full of thanks, with thanks in one’s heart. We are going to see that we are to give thanks to the LORD for two reasons. First is Who he is. The second is what He has done for us.

So, Who is God? Why is who he is a reason to worship him, to praise him and to give thanks to him? God has spent the entire Bible (and all of time before and since then) revealing himself to us. First, he created the universe, the world, the heavens and earth, and us. He is more awesome and powerful, more loving and merciful and good, the Most knowing and creative being that has ever been. He has spent the entire Old Testament doing mighty works, performing miracles, delivering and saving people, making himself known to the Jewish people and the nations around them. He saved nations, destroyed cities and had individuals turn to salt or swallowed by fish.

We also see that God instituted the sacrificial system in the Old Testament to make atonement for our sins. Sin requires blood and God allowed us to sacrifice animals in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. But those were not the only sacrifices, or offerings that were instituted. Leviticus 22:29 also makes reference to giving a sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Psalm 50, a psalm of Asaph tells us the same thing, saying in v 14: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the most high.”

What’s really neat when we look at the Old Testament sacrifice of thanks, is what is required in it. The sacrifice requires a blood offering of a lamb or goat with no blemish. It requires bread or crackers made with yeast and bread or crackers made without yeast.

These three pieces are symbolic in what they represent. A lamb without blemish is a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. His blood was sacrificed for us and poured out on the cross just like the lamb here.

The unleavened bread, or bread made without yeast is very specific as well. Yeast and leaven are associate with sin, and so bringing bread without yeast represents a life without sin, a life of holiness and purity. Again, who amongst us has lived this life? Only one man. Also, a part of the unleavened bread was that it was mixed with oil, which is often times associated with the Holy Spirit.

One commentator brings it together this way,

So, all three persons of the trinity are represented in this offering:
(1) God the Father to whom the offering is given, (2) Jesus represented by the unleavened bread and (3) the Holy Spirit represented by the oil.”

The commentator continues on, bringing in the last piece of the sacrifice, again, saying,

Now there was one more part of the thank offering, I mentioned the sheep or goat, the unleavened bread, and then the third part of the offering was cakes of bread made with yeast or leaven. This represented the person offering it, that is the sinner… you and I. This is symbolically saying, God, you’ve done so much for me,
You’ve given me all that I have, and I not only thank you,
but I give myself to you. That’s what the offering,
of this leavened bread was really saying. So, God set up this system in the OT so that people would be giving him thanks, on a regular basis, by sacrificing to him.”

God has so many attributes that make him worthy of our thanksgiving and our praise and our worship. Psalm 136 gives us 26 verses of things that God is and things that God has done that make him worthy of thanks, but it repeats the same thing in the second part of every verse.

We are going to read Psalm 136 this morning and I want you to follow along. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we read a Psalm of Thanksgiving:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

Now as I said, this continues on for an additional 17 verses and each one repeats “his steadfast love endures forever.” The word here translated as steadfast love, is also translated “lovingkindness” in this psalm. The Hebrew word, “chesed”

Now, I don’t actually know if I’m pronouncing it correctly, but that’s the word. In other passages, this is often translated mercy, kindness or goodness. One commentator explains the use of the word in this psalm this way: “The LORD’s loyal love, mentioned in each of the 26 refrains, is his covenant faithfulness to his Chosen People whom he loves.”

Forever means forever. God’s love endures forever. Nothing can take it away; nothing can change it. It always was and always is. His steadfast love is part of who he is. This is based on his qualities, not ours. Just like the other things the psalmist lists in Psalm 136.

What I like about this psalm in particular, is that it so completely lists that many reasons to be thankful to God, and as I mentioned earlier, it splits it in to two categories, who he is and what he has done. The first 9 verses, what we just read, are about who God is. HE is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is good and he alone does great wonders. And it starts talking about the wonders of his creation. Genesis 1:1 starts off everything, “In the beginning, God created…” The first words of the Bible. Out of nothing, nothing! God created the Heavens and the earth, the seas and the lands, the skies and the mountains, the animals, the birds and the fish. And he created man.

Have you ever created anything out of nothing?

There is a joke about that. A scientist thinks he has finally figured out how to replicate God’s miracles. He thinks he knows how to make man out of dust. Remember this is a joke. God doesn’t believe the scientist and says, ok, prove it. The scientist begins to gather up a pile of dirt and dust. All of a sudden, God cries out, “no, no, you have to make your own pile of dust.”

Now we are made in God’s image, so we are born with the ability to create with the gifts and materials that he has given us, but we cannot create something out of nothing. God is greater than us and deserves our thanks, and our praise.

The next section of the Psalm takes us into some of the things he has done. In the specific context of the Psalm, they start looking back at God freeing the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to the promised land. But towards the end, it also becomes more general so that it applies to us as well. v. 23-26 reads:

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

The psalmist points out here that when we give thanks for what God has done for us, it’s not enough to just give thanks to him for the good things in our lives. The Bible makes it clear that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. Here in psalm 136, the psalmist is saying that they were in low estates.

They were down on their luck; nothing was going right. This would be where we start to wonder where God is. We wonder what possible reason we have to give him thanks. We have some of the moments and feelings that we talked about last week.

This is where chesed comes in. It is his ability to be faithful, not our ability to see or not see him working. But the psalmist points to God’s grace. First, specific grace that is given to his people. V 24 says that God rescued us from our foes. Second, he points to common grace. This is grace, love and gifts that are given to all people, He says in v 25 that God gives food to all flesh.

Jesus parallels this in the Sermon on the mount. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to be anxious, not to worry about what clothes we will where and what food we will eat. He says in v 26, “26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Jesus is not telling us not to plan, not to be prepared, but what he is telling us is not to doubt the love and the goodness of God. We will always have this common grace to be thankful for. Charles Spurgeon speaks of these times in our lives, saying:

Some of us think at times that we could cry “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There are seasons when the brightness of our father’s smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never does really forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ’ sake it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our fathers love; but the real turning away of Gods face from his son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused him? In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: in his case it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from Him for a season. O thou poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God’s face, but art now in darkness, remember that He has not really forsaken thee. God in the clouds is as much our God as when he shines forth in all the lustre of his grace.”

God wants us to see him in the good and the bad, and see that he is in control, that he is our creator King, and he will continue to take care of us, no matter what. James tells us right at the beginning of his letter, in verse 2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds.” God has a way of working things together for his glory, that we can’t always see now, and we may not ever see.

When we read the Bible, we have the advantage of seeing from 30,000 feet. What I mean by that is that we often get to see the big picture, how God uses different circumstances and brings them around to his will and his glory. Two narratives that come to mind in the Old Testament are that of Joseph and of Job.

In Genesis, Josephs brothers do not like him and are jealous of him being their father’s favorite. They sell him into slavery, and he ends up in Egypt. He is faithful to God, becomes respected, ends up in jail on false charges, becomes respected again and ends up being the Pharaohs right hand man. He is the one who is essentially running the country.

When there is a huge famine in the area, Egypt is the only country with food and people are coming from all around to try to buy food. This includes Josephs old family. He reveals himself to them and moves his family down to Egypt. His brothers show regret and think that there will be retribution for what they did to Joseph. In Genesis 50:20-21, Joseph tells them:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph was able to look back and see why God had put him through all the trials that he was put through. He saw the bigger picture. Job was not so lucky. We, reading the Bible see the part in the beginning of Job where Satan and God are talking, and God gives him permission to put him through many various trials. So, Job was put through all this to prove that he would not turn against God when everything he has was taken from him. See, Jobs fear of the LORD, his worship of God, his giving thanks to him was not only based on what God had done to him and for him, but because of who God was. Job got through the trials and God restored all that he had and more. But during the entire time that God was revealing to Job who he was and talking with him, Job never found out why he went through all the trials he did.

So, we can see in each of those stories what there is to give thanks for, what good has come of them, and who God is in them. We see them from high up in the air, putting the puzzle together and seeing it in totality. When things are happening to us, we don’t see it from up in the air, we are seeing it from the ground and we can’t always, or even often see the big picture.

But what we do have is God’s word, his promises. And his promise is that we go through the things we go through for a reason. Lets go back to James. He tells us to be thankful for the trials that we are put through, but he goes onto tell us why. Starting in v 3,

for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When we give thanks to God during times of trials, our faith grows and we come to know God better, growing closer to him. Paul tells us that no matter what, God’s will will be done. That He is in control and that he has our best interest in mind. Our job is to worship him and to follow him, giving him thanks and praise.      Paul tells us on Romans 8,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The point of this passage is not just that God is good and will work everything to his will, which he will. But more than that it tells us a part of what his will is. That those of us that know him will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That we will grow to be more like Jesus and that we will grow to be closer to God. That we will give thanks and worship and praise to he who is our creator King and is all good all the time.

Now let’s be clear. The bible is not saying and I am not saying that these times aren’t hard, that they aren’t difficult and that we shouldn’t hurt. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. His friend’s death hurt him and he mourned. What the Bible is saying is that when we know him, we can look at these circumstances and we can know that somehow, someway, someday, sometime, God will use this for his glory. One old theologian said that, “A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.”

This past Thursday, our nation celebrated Thanksgiving. Many Americans sit down as a family, tell each other what they are thankful for and spend time together. Many Americans do this only on this one day of the year. But I want to challenge us to something more. Each day, tell each other what you are thankful for. Each day, whoever you are spending your time with, family, friends coworkers, tell them what you are thankful for in your day, in your life, big and small. And let everyone know who you are thankful to. For tomorrow is never promised.

See, just like forgiving others and praying, having a thankful heart towards God has an actual effect on us. A few of the many benefits of having a thankful heart towards God include It honors Him, It refocuses our attention, It releases us from anxiety (Phil. 4:6-7), It refreshes our relationship with Him, It reinforces our faith, and It protects us from attacks and temptations from the enemy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke on the importance of biblical thanksgiving, saying:

“The way out of spiritual trial leads through thanksgiving.  . . . When thanksgiving fails, all else fails.  If there is something in our lives that we cannot include in thanksgiving, the Devil has found an open gate.  .

Giving thanks to God, having a thankful heart and mind towards him are vital for our well-being, for our growth and for our worship and right understanding of God. I think that thanksgiving to God is very similar to prayer to God. He wants to hear us pray for the big things. My old Pastor used to teach about how our prayers tend to not be very big, compared to Gods immeasurable greatness and power. But we also know that God loves us individually as singular people. And he wants to hear our prayers, not matter what they are, no matter how small they seem to us.

See, most of us fall into one of two categories. Either we believe that God is big enough powerful enough, to have the ability to create everything in existence, the entire cosmos, but does he really love and care about little old me enough to care about and do anything with my prayers? Or we go the other way, God loves me and cares about me, wants to hear about my wants and my problems, but he is not really going to do anything about it. Intellectually we may know that he is both, but viscerally, we have a hard time with that and tend to lean one way or the other.

He is both big enough to warrant thanks for life, salvation, this world. And he is also personal enough to warrant thanks for roasted duck, my kids and wife, for a heating system, for padded pews and chairs.

It matters to God. It should matter to us. It matters to the point that Revelation shows us in Ch 7 that the angels are on their faces before the throne of God and in v 12, : saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

The most important reason for us on a personal level, to give thanks to God is what we saw earlier in the quote by Charles Spurgeon. Our sins needed to be dealt with. We turned our back on God, we disobeyed his directions and found our selves separated from him. Because he wanted to restore that relationship, God sent Jesus Christ to take our punishment. We see that God had to forsake Jesus, to turn away from him, so that Jesus would feel that separation from God. We see the agony and the utter torment that it caused Jesus on the Cross. That was supposed to be us. Instead Jesus took it so we didn’t have to. Doesn’t that deserve Thanks?

We look back at the story I opened with and Jesus healing the ten lepers. Do we want to be the one who came back or the ones who didn’t? I found a poem of giving thanks to God that I want to read to as we finish up.

When times are lean with naught to share
When love is hard to find
Where cold nights reign with cupboards bare
Then God is on the mind
But who gives praise when life is grand
When God has seen us through
Who’ve learned in truth to understand
That God remembers too
How oft we fail to thank the Lord
For all His kindness done
Through love He’ll turn His vengeful sword
In Christ His faithful Son
Give thanks to God for large and small
Give thanks for life on earth
From deep within or not at all
Give praise for all you’re worth

Worthy is God of all our praise
For all His wondrous deeds
Who serve The Truth in all their ways
May find they have no needs
Yet still the nations live in stress
Where harvest brings defeat
They need to turn so God can bless
With food for all to eat
Yet those who have can ill afford
With belly’s full to sit
We need to pray through Christ our Lord
We need to do our bit
For things can change as times before
When God held back the rain
For who can tell if sin once more
Won’t change our times again

Lets Pray

O Lord, Accept our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things.

We thank you for Ian’s faith, and our knowledge that he is with you. We thank you that you spared Micah’s life and that he has such a loving and big family around him that loves him and is taking care of him. We pray that you are using this situation to draw him into your loving arms. We thank you for using things like the death of loved ones, things like the devasting fires, things like medical issues, COVID, gout, strokes, bone and muscle and joint pain, things like financial troubles, inflation, job loses and so much more to help us to remember you, depend on you and give thanks to you, For you are good, and your steadfast love endures forever.

 Amen

 

Luke 12:54-59 Jesus is the Son of Man: Time is Short

Luke 12:54-59

Jesus is the Son of Man

Time is Short

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and open our Bibles to Luke chapter 12. We are finishing this chapter this morning, picking up right where we left off just a few weeks ago.

Jesus has been focusing his teaching and preaching in this chapter on focusing on the right priorities. And the only right priority is the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

And what our attitudes are, what our actions show, what our hearts and prayers and behaviors are and do and show, directly reflects how important Gods Kingdom and Glory are to us.

We work here and now, we do what’s good for this world, we act on the today, but we focus on, and we look forward to and we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ; his death, his resurrection, his second coming, and the culmination of his Kingdom.

And here Jesus is issuing a wake-up call to those who are following him and listening to his teachings. Now is the time to repent and believe. He just told his disciples that division will be coming, between those who believe and those who don’t, now he turns to the crowds and tells them to get on the right side of that division.

Let’s go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 12, verses 54-59. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 12:53-59, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reads:

 

 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so, it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”[j]

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Holy Word.

 

 

So, Jesus starts off talking about what most small-town, blue-collar folk talk about, the weather. IN that region, the weather was pretty easy to predict. When the winds came from the west, they were coming off the Mediterranean Sea and that generally meant rain.   If the winds were coming from the South, it was coming from the desert and the winds would be bringing heat with them. And everyone knew this simply by observing nature.

We do this today as well. We read the signs, we know that when certain things are coming up, what it will look like and how it will affect us. We know when certain winds are blowing, we will see certain things happen. We can see what God is doing with the weather. And what Jesus shared is just one example of that.

What He is showing us is that we can and will see what we want to see. And we can and will not see what we don’t want to see. We will see what’s important to us and we will ignore and suppress what’s not important to us. You have heard me use this example before, but the Bible is a perfect example. What you are looking for in the Bible, whether true or not, is what you will find. If you go into the Bible looking for it to confirm your views, regardless of what they are, you can find a Bible verse to support it. It may be ripped out of context, it likely doesn’t actually support your views, but what you are looking for you will find.

That’s what’s going on with people in Israel that Jesus is talking to here in this passage. They are seeing what they want, and they are consciously or subconsciously, ignoring and not seeing what they don’t want to see. Jesus is saying that they can’t see what is right in front of their eyes.

Jesus said back in Luke 11:20, telling the crowds who he was, But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. He is giving them the answer to the question that they don’t even realize is being asked.

Jesus was right there, in the flesh, literally. He was what God was doing right there in their midst. And they couldn’t see it. They wouldn’t see it. They were blinded to it. And they were distracted.

They were distracted by the same things we are distracted by today. They were distracted by being good, moral people and following Gods Law. They were distracted by the outer influences on their society, in their case the Roman occupation of Israel. They are distracted by things that seem good and seem important. Politics, weather, nationality, and so on…

They are so distracted by these things that they can’t see the good and great works that God is doing. They can’t see who God is. Jesus calls them hypocrites because they know this deep down, but they are unwilling, again, often subconsciously, to see Jesus for who he is.

We get so caught up today in what’s going in Washington DC, or what’s going on in Sacramento, or how things are being played out across the country, different trials going on, the seeming worsening of the moral fabric of society that we miss the good and great work that God is doing today, in America, in California, in Butte County and in Bangor.

We talked a few weeks ago of the works that God is doing specifically in rural communities throughout the country as churches like ourselves, and so many more are partnering with Village Missions to reach out to the communities they are in and through these rural domestic missions, show people the love of Christ and the truth of his Word.

IN that regard, we are working for the here and now by focusing on the eternal. But when we focus on the here and now at the expense of the eternal, when we are distracted by the things which seem right and good, we miss Gods work and what he is doing.

So, instead of reading the tea leaves, instead of reading conspiracy theories or prophecies into every headline we read, instead of focusing on those things, we are to look and marvel at the great work that God is doing and that he is doing it through His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus is saying that, in context, they should have seen. What should they have seen? Philip Ryken details it, writing:

What, specifically should they have seen Luke is the Gospel of knowing for sure, and it has shown us what Jesus was saying and doing. People should have learned from his teaching that he spoke with divine authority. This was the man who took the old promises of salvation and said, “They are fulfilled in my ministry” (see Luke 4:21) They also should have seen from his miracles that he had true divine power. This was the man who ruled the waves and cast out demons “by the finger of God” see Luke 11:20). If people had been able to interpret the times, they would have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to bring salvation.

          They also would have seen that judgment was coming. Jesus was just the kind of prophet who always got persecuted, and probably killed. Already the religious leaders were plotting against him (see Luke 11:53-54) and this served as a storm warning. If people had been able to interpret the times, they would have seen the gathering clouds and taken cover. Yet they never saw it coming.

 

 

          Jesus says they should have seen it. Jesus isn’t going to say things like this if there it wasn’t true. He is God, he can’t be wrong. If he says we should have seen, then we should have seen. He was clear, they and often us are the ones that miss it.

 

And He says, And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Jesus calls us back to what he was asked and what he answered back in verses 13 & 14 when the gut wanted Jesus to judge between, he and his brother in an inheritance case.

He uses this reference to share another mini parable. He is telling us to settle our case now. There are two applications to this, one, the main, eternal one, and the secondary one for here and now today.

Make amends in your relationships. Fix those relationships and friendships that have fallen away. We are never promised tomorrow. WE don’t know how long we have or how long they have, you never know when it will be too late to make amends, especially if you are the one who is guilty or at fault. And if the other person is at fault, make sure they know that you have forgiven them, that you are ready to move on and make amends. As one commentator pointed out, sometimes we are really good at believing in forgiveness, but not so much in acting on it.

All of us in this room, many of us recently, can testify to those times when a loved one is here one day and gone the next. The question always comes up, do we know where they are going? Sometimes we do. That has been one of the things that we can be so grateful for when we know a person’s faith, we see and hear their love for Jesus and so we know that when they die, they are with Him in eternal Glory, no tears, no pain, no nothing, just eternal glorification and communion with God.

Sometimes we know that a person has no faith and there is no evidence that they are saved. We know where they are going and its not good news. Other times, and I had this with my mom, we have no idea. They might profess some faith, but not show much fruit. They may not talk about any faith they may have or were raised in a different faith tradition where you can’t tell by talking to them if they have a saving faith. That, I think is the toughest.

But the question is there, sometimes in the background, sometimes brought by circumstances or by conviction of the Holy Spirit, do you know where your loved ones and friends are going after they die? And the follow up, what are you doing about it?

 

We can’t force anyone to believe, so while we do have the responsibility to share the truth of the Gospel with our friends and family, there may be an even more important question. DO they know where you are going, if you were to die today? If you are the one who is here today and gone tomorrow?

 

Jesus is saying that this needs to be determined here and now. The time for mercy is now. The time for settling our case before God is now. This requires recognizing and admitting our guilt. That all of us are guilty of sinning against the Almighty and all holy God.

The only way that we can receive mercy, a commuted sentence is through the mercy and grace of God when we turn to Jesus and repent of our sins and believe on him who died for the forgiveness of our sins.

We will all stand before the judge when we die, and will give an account for our lives, sins and all. Once we are standing before the judge, the time for mercy is over. That’s why Jesus is calling for us to decide now. Once we are before the judge, if we have not previously received his mercy, there are no more options, no more chances. He has no choice but to find us guilty, because we are. That’s the only verdict possible. The time for mercy is over and the time for justice has arrived.

And so, Jesus is offering to settle our case. If we admit our guilt, repent from our sins and throw ourselves on the mercy of Most High, he is merciful. If we reject mercy, we receive justice. It is just that all sins are punished through eternity in Hell. Sin requires that all of us receive justice, that all sin is accounted for.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He has attained the forgiveness of sins by taking the wrath and punishment for sin. Justice was served. Therefore, God the Father chooses to pour his mercy, his forgiveness, on some. Those who believe, those who repent, those who put their faith and trust in Christ.

We owe a debt that we can never repay. Even if we could, we continue to sin until we are in Heaven, in our new, glorified bodies, so we would continue to accrue more and more debt, so to speak. But once God’s mercy is poured out on us, though we stumble, we shall never fall. Though we fall, we will get back up. WE are, what Martin Luther termed, “at the same time justified and sinner.” Simul Justus et peccator

The very first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, which would unintentionally go on to start the Protestant Reformation says that a believer’s life is one of continual repentance. Salvation, or Justification is a one time, once and for all, It Is Finish event. But our living it out, our working out our salvation with fear and trembling, our sanctification is an ongoing, lifelong process.

It is better to receive this mercy, before we get to the judge, than to face the justice we so truly deserve when the verdict is handed down.

Jesus has given all the information; he has been clear and left no room for doubt. Now it is up to each one if us individually to believe Him, to acknowledge the truth, His Truth, the Truth of the Bible. Jesus tells those who are hearing him in this passage, they should have seen through all the other stuff, they should have read the signs and they should have recognized Him for who He was.

And how much more, seeing these people reject, having the whole counsel of scripture and have it all here, laid out before us, who much more should we see and acknowledge His Truth and recognize Jesus Christ as our LORD and savior and trust and obey.

My great uncle, who was a priest, was so very fond of saying, “We are promised forgiveness if we ask, but we are never promised tomorrow.” Look around at what many in our family right here have dealt with over the past number of months and you will see the truth.

Sometimes it can be somewhat expected, we can know it is coming soon. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s a little in between. God knows the number of our days, but he doesn’t let us in on that.

And as we think of how we have grieved for different people we have lost; think how they will grieve for you. WE can give them a gift by assure them of where we are going after we die.

Salvation Belongs to the LORD.

Today is the Day of Salvation.

Romans 10:8-10:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

And lastly, John 5:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

Special: Focus On Rural Missions (FORM) Partnership in Rural Missions

Focus on Rural Ministry

October 31, 2021

 

All right! I do want you to grab your Bibles, but there’s no need to open them right away. This morning is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to speak for a few moments and then we will have a video sermon from John Adams, the Executive Director of Village Missions.

Every year, Village Missions dedicates one Sunday as a day to remind churches and their congregations about why the Mission of Village Missions is so important. This used to be called Village Missions Sunday, though it has changed in name to Focus On Rural Missions Sunday (FORM).

Now, I don’t think I need to sell anyone in this room on the benefits on focusing on Rural Ministry and bringing the Gospel to rural areas of North America. There are many in this room who can tie their faith directly to Village Missions, or AMF, or some other individual or organization that was clearly and strongly called specifically to Rural Missions.

What I want to do is preemptively piggyback on the theme of this years VM Sunday. This year’s theme is Partnership in Rural Missions.

Village Missions is built on Gospel partnership. Vm does not run churches, they do not own churches, they do not plant churches or anything like it. They partner with the local church. This is straight from the VM website:

Village Missions places spiritually qualified missionary-pastors in churches at the invitation of local rural communities. These missionary-pastors serve in a full-time capacity, preaching the Word and loving the people. We support the leadership through prayer as well as financial and other logistical assistance.

 

They are in partnership with these local churches to Equip the church, to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. This partnership is one of the biggest things in determining if VM will partner with a field. They are not here to compete with other Gospel sharing, Bible teaching churches. They are dedicated to ensuring that every community has a Gospel presence.

One way it was described to me, and ill adapt it to us, really stuck with me. IF our church, if Bangor Community Church were not here, many of us would travel to Oroville or Gridley or Palermo or Rackerby or wherever and would commute to a different church. But would a non-Christian go out of their way, get up early on a Sunday morning, drive all the way to Oroville and go to a church where they probably don’t know anyone and where they worship a God that the non-Christian doesn’t believe in. Now, with our church here, we have seen it happen and some of us have been that one who sees this church day in and day out and knows someone who goes here and thinks about it a long while and finally decides, “You know, its right here, right in town, its not really out of my way. Yeah, I’ll go.”

These are the communities that Village Missions partners with. To Equip our church, as a church body and as individuals to do the Work of the Ministry. Ministry as individuals that people know go to this church. And Ministry as a church to make ourselves presentable and welcoming to those who would come.

Now, John Adams is going to talk about some of the different ways that we can partner together to help bring the Gospel to rural communities and will preach mostly out of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I want to share some of the practical ways that VM offers resources and some real-life ways that partnerships through VM have impacted lives.

Contenders Discipleship Initiative, CDI. Some of you already know about this and some of you started to take advantage of this program before we shut down for COVID.

The Contenders Discipleship Initiative (CDI) is a two-year program offered by Village Missions to equip Christians for ministry within their local church and to prepare those who are called for full-time ministry as missionary pastors.

The CDI program is tuition-free and involves two components:

  1. Biblical Education
  2. Mentoring for Ministry

 

 

The Way that we went about it was much more casual than it sounds here, but the goal is the same. To equip us to know our Bible more and to know how to know our Bible more. Taken as developed, completed these 6 courses is the equivalent to going to Bible school. This is offered for free, not just to VM churches, but to anyone who wants to get to know their Bible better.

When we were doing CDI here, we got about halfway through the first class, Hermeneutics, How to Study the Bible. We are going to start the classes back up again in January, for those who have been asking. The first class, the first half of it, since we have already gone over it, we will go through it slightly accelerated, a refresher if you already took the first half. And if you are interested in coming, we will be going through the first half again so that you won’t be left behind.

 

Another resource that I recommend, a website VM put together, vmchurches.org. This is a listing of all of the Village Missions churches throughout Canada and the US. IT lists the missionary serving there, it has addresses and services times and sometimes more information about their church and/or congregation. I’ve seen this be useful in a number of ways.

IF you are going on vacation and want to know if there is a bible based, Gospel preaching church in the area, you can look that location up on the website and they will let you know where the closest VM church is. This also works if you are moving and looking for a new church near your new home.

On this site, the missionary can also provide links to the church websites, Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and audio or video of sermons from the church. I personally enjoy, on those rare occasions when I have some quiet time, to go listen to another Village Missionary’s sermons. IT helps me stay connected to what others are doing throughout the country.

Each rural community is different. Many have the same or similar success or obstacles, different local backgrounds, traditions, history, it’s a completely different mission field.

The connection, the partnerships between VM churches can have wonderful affects and benefits.  I was counseling one gentleman, we met together a number of times. He was moving up to the Redding area. Redding is one of those areas that, along with many faithful Bible teaching churches, there are some very big, very prominent, very heretical churches as well. I was able to show him the VM churches website so he could look for himself, and because I knew some of the pastors in those VM churches, I was able to recommend some of them specifically.

Another way that the partnership and connection between fellow VM churches worked was just the last few months with the VM church in Greenville. Many of you have been there or been through that town. Hope and I met the Hendrix’s this summer at the Annual Staff conference. When the fire ripped through and burned the town down, including the church and parsonage, we have names and faces to put with the stories of what happened up there. Hope was able to talk to Janice and see what it was that was needed right now, what would be needed soon and what the specific prayer requests were. We also have been able to hear the answers to those prayers as well. That happened because of your guy’s generous hearts, your knowledge of what it means for a fire to rip through town, some of you lost your homes and so you know exactly how to pray and some of those practical needs that aren’t thought of till much, much later. It happened because of you guys and because of the connection and partnership of two Village Missionaries and their churches.

One of things that ministry has taught me that I absolutely didn’t know practically at the beginning, though I would have verbally affirmed it. We can’t do this on our own. God has created us for fellowship, for community and for partnership.

We are lucky enough to live in places that are, unfortunately, sometimes easily forgotten. But God has not forgotten. It is easy to see all the things going on in this world and specifically in this country where it seems like the church is losing, people are running away form God, rejecting him in all that they do. But God is working, he is moving mightily and the rural, forgotten places in this country are a big part of that.

Luke 12:49-53 Jesus is the Son of Man Peace or Division?

Luke 12:49-53

Jesus is the Son of Man

Peace or Division?

          All right! Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 12.

 

I want to start us off by asking a question. Are we called to mimic Jesus in everything He did? Are we called to imitate Him in everything He is called to?

Before we look at our passage this morning and see why I am asking that question, we first look at the context of Luke chapter 12. Luke has been ensuring that we ate focusing on the things that He tells us to focus on. He is telling us to focus not on the earthly, the temporary. He tells us not to have a fear of man. He tells us that Eat, drink and be merry is the wrong worldview. Instead, focus on the eternal, on the heavenly. Have a fear of God. Be faithful to what God has called us to do.

And we see in scriptures that God tells us what he wants us to do.

Make Disciples

Teach them to obey all that Christ commanded.

Speak the Truth in Love

Pursue Righteousness.

Love God and Love your Neighbor.

 

What He doesn’t call us to do is to save people. That’s the Holy Spirits job. He doesn’t call us to heal the sick, though some had been given that gift. He doesn’t call us to die on the cross as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins. That was what Jesus was called to do.

 

And I will contend that we are not called to wield a metaphorical sword and act divisively. Paul writes in a few places that as much as it is possible, we are to live at peace with each other. One of the qualifications of elders in 1 Timothy 3 is that he must be well thought of by outsiders.

And so, with all that, the questions begs itself, what do we do with this passage this morning?

Let’s go ahead and read it and look deep at it. We will be reading Luke chapter 12, verses 49-53. I will, as always, be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 12:49-53, Luke records Jesus words:

 

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father 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 mother-in-law.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

All right, so first of all, I want us to remember the context within which Jesus said this. WE just looked at a passage where Jesus said that faithful servants would be rewarded and that the unfaithful would be punished.

And so, we know immediately that sin will be punished. We also know that Jesus is the judge, the one who will judge sin. He is the one who will judge, who will determine whether we enter Heaven or Hell for eternity.

And so, Jesus says here that he is to cast fire on the earth, he is talking about divine judgment. The salvation He offers is the salvation from His wrath poured out over the sins we commit against Him. Hell, the Lake of Fire is not the devil’s domain. He doesn’t rule down there. God created it and rules over it. Jesus is King, not only of Heaven, but of Hell as well. He is sovereign over ALL of his creation.

He is saying, be prepared, be ready, eternal judgment is coming. And the fire will come through. He will cast fire on the earth. And Fire destroys the temporary. It destroys the exact thing we have been being warned by Jesus not to put our trust in, because it will all go away.

We see the correlation between Jesus’ baptism and the fire of judgment as well. John the Baptist, earlier in Luke, chapter 3, verses 16 & 17, he says:

“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Baptism is also a symbol of death and rebirth. We are baptized, in part, to show our identity with Christ dying, going beneath the surface, and raising up from the dead, out of the water in our case. It is pointing to the crucifixion. It is a sign of death and resurrection. A sign of judgment and rebirth. In our cases, a symbol, a representation of us being spiritually born again.

And we get a glimpse here of Jesus’ heart. We see the desires of his heart. Jesus knows what he is going to go through. We see the night before his death, He is praying hard and asking God the Father that if there were any other way, to do that instead. He knows the pain and the wrath that He is going to feel.

But He also knows why. He knows what it will accomplish. He knows that our souls and our eternal destinies are at stake. He knows that the cross is how His people will be brought to Him. And he longs for it to have already happened.

You ever have one of those things that you want so much, all of your focus and energy and attention is on accomplishing that one thing. You are so looking forward to it that you want it to have already been done, already been accomplished. “I want this so much; I wish I already had it!” Not wishing to skip ahead and have it in your hands without all the work and preparation and all that that needs to go into it. But looking forward to that time when you come have it and look back on it.

Jesus longed for the redemption and salvation of his people to have already occurred. He wished for and longed for the Consummation of Gods Kingdom here on earth to have already occurred.

Kent Hughes says it this way:

Through his baptism, all who believed in him would be regenerated, born of the Spirit, made eternally alive as eternal sons and daughters of God (cf. John 1:12, 13; 3:3-6)- and he longed for that. They would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth- and He longed for that. They would no longer be alone (cf. John 14:16, 17)- and he longed for that. They would be sealed with the Holy Spirit as a down payment insuring their eternal inheritance. They would enjoy eternal life now (cf. Ephesians 1:13,14; 4:30)- and he longed for that. They would be sanctified, made holy by the Spirits fiery work of internal soul purification. He would melt their hearts, so to speak, and skim away the impure dross from their souls so they could mirror His holy image- and he longed for that. And ultimately their lives would be ignited, they would become incendiary. Pentecostal fire would flame from their lives, the Spirit of burning would rest above their willing heads, and the fire would spread- and he longed for that.

 

Jesus is saying that he longed for all that was going to happen to have already happened. And he was in great distress until it would.

 

And then he says something that goes against, or at least seems to go against, everything that the disciples and all Israel was expecting form its coming Messiah. They wanted and expected peace. They wanted peace within their borders, and a strong border and a strong king and leader ensuring peace with their neighbors. The coming Messiah was the Prince of Peace. The angels declared on the night Jesus was born, Peace and goodwill to all whom his favor rests upon.

And with all of this known and expected, Jesus says, I have not come to bring peace, but to bring division. So, again, I ask, what do we do with that? Once again, we look at the two hermeneutic rules of interpreting scripture. First, scripture always interprets scripture. Second, we let the clear passages of scripture interpret the unclear passages. So, we take what we know from scripture and use that to inform what we are not sure about.

First of all, Jesus was not talking here about interpersonal conflicts. He was not talking about one-on-one interactions. He tells the crowds during the sermon on the mount, blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Sons of God.  Alastair Begg says at this point:

Clearly Jesus did not advocate conflict. He didn’t put together a group of individuals who were going to be insurrectionists.  In fact, he taught his disciples that at least in terms of their personal conduct, retaliation was not an option for them.

 

And he is not saying that we should be divisive. The Gospel is offensive in and of itself. Scripture attests to that. It is a stumbling block, and it convicts sin and people will get offended at that. But while the Gospel is offensive, we are never called to be offensive. We have to be careful that we don’t use this verse or others like it as an excuse to be a jerk or to offend others.

Instead, we are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel. We are to live at peace with those around us. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to speak the truth in love and are given a ministry of reconciliation.

We are, in fact, called to be ambassadors for Christ. Think about what an ambassador does, what he is called to do. He does not lay down ultimatums. He does not wage or declare war. He does not decide who is a friendly and who is an enemy of the person they are speaking on behalf of. Their job is to present the message and stance of the one whom they represent. Their job is to speak on behalf of the one who makes those decisions. To diplomatically communicate what their boss, or king or president, or in our case, LORD has declared and wants communicated. And nothing more and nothing less.

Jesus will divide. The truth will divide. He has drawn a line in the sand and has told us all to choose a side. That line in the sand is what divides.

Jesus addresses our part in this in Matthew 13:24-30:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

 

          It is not our job to determine who is on which side of the dividing line. IT is not our job to determine who is in and who is out.

It is our job to communicate what that line is and what the consequences are for picking the wrong side of the line. We are also responsible for doing so firmly, but politely, respectfully and lovingly.

We stand against and we confront sin, but we don’t judge who is in and who is out, and we don’t divide. We don’t determine the outcome, or the results. We are especially called to peace with our fellow believers, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times does Jesus tell his disciples to “love one another?”

 

 

Jesus will punish sin. He will return and he will judge the living and the dead. He will divide the righteous and the unrighteous. He will decide who gets into heave and who goes to hell. And he will divide based solely on who is clothed in his blood. The dividing line in the sand is simply who is clothed in his righteousness or who is depending on their own righteousness.

SO, when he talks about bringing division, Alistair Begg says, “Now, what he means by that is clearly not that his ultimate objective was division but that the effect of his accomplishment of salvation would be division—

I will say this. We will be shockingly surprised at who we see in Heaven. And we will be shockingly surprised at who we do not see in Heaven as well.

Blood is thicker than water. We have all heard that, right? So, our own natural hopes, our beliefs are that we will be with family when we get to Heaven. That could be blood family. It could be our chosen family. It could be our church family.

 

 

Jesus says that our families will be divided. Not all are saved because of their family. We can’t trust that because our grandma used to take us to church, and we went to Sunday school or awana that we are good. Not all are saved because they go to church. We cannot trust in our attendance or our reputation for being a part of the church to save us.

 

Many who think they are saved, many who we think are saved will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And many who think they are saved, many who we think are saved will hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

 

This should install a sense of urgency to share the Gospel, to let friends, family and church members know that it is only though God’s grace and his blood and faith in His Son that we can be saved. That those who believe will be welcomed as children of God. And those who do not believe will be divided and sent to eternal judgment and wrath.

The results are in Gods hands. Obedience and faithfulness are in our hands.

I will leave you with a quote from JC Ryle, who says:

Let us never be moved by those who charge the Gospel with being the cause of strife and divisions upon the earth… It is not the Gospel which is to blame, but the corrupt heart of man…So long as some men and women will not repent and believe, and some will, there must needs be division. To be surprised at it is the height of folly. The very existence of division is one proof of Christs foresight and the truth of Christianity.”

 

Let’s Pray.

 

Luke 12:35-48 Jesus is the Son of Man Ready or Not…

Luke 12:35-48

Jesus is the Son of Man

Ready or Not…

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 12. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or if you need one, please see me after the service and we can see what we can do to get one into your hands.

Jesus has been teaching and warning those following him, that they need to make sure they are not being distracted. He wanted to make sure they were focused on what’s important.

And he tells us what is important. He tells us to stay focused on the Kingdom of God. When we put our focus too much on the here and now, on the temporary, on this world, then our eyes and our focus is taken off of the Kingdom, taken off of the eternal, taken off of God.

And so, we are to focus on God, always looking to Jesus, who the author of Hebrews says is the author and perfector of our faith. Jesus is our entire focus. Jesus who is called our Living hope in 1 Peter 1:3. Jesus who is called our blessed hope in Titus 2:13.

And this morning, in the passage we are going to look at, Jesus continues to remind us that we are to be prepared, be attentive, be active and be focused on he and he alone.

We are going to read Luke chapter 12 verses 35-48. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along in whichever is your preferred translation.

Luke 12:35-48, Luke writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

 

“Stay dressed for action[f] and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants[g] whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[h] would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant[i] whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

Pastor and theologian Arnold T Olson once wrote:

Ever since the first days of the Christian Church, evangelicals have been “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ. They have disagreed as to its timing and to the events on the eschatological calendar. They may have differed as to a pre-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture- the pre-, post-, or non-millennial coming. They may have been divided as to a literal rebirth of Israel. However, all are agreed that the final solution to the problem of this world is in the hands of the King of kings who will someday make the kingdom of this world his very one.

 

          Now, I think that is so important to remember. We all, if we are faithful, saved Christians, believe that the LORD is coming back at some point, and we are looking forward to that moment His kingdom and victory are not just here, but they are initiated and culminated.

Everything else we can have a conversation about. I am willing to have a conversation about it. But only if you agree to keep it as a secondary issue. Not his second coming, that is a first-tier issue. But the way it plays out, the form it takes, views on rapture, millenniums and literal, spiritual and symbolic fulfillment of prophecy, these are secondary issues, and we cannot and will not let that become arguments or divide us as brothers and sisters in Christ.

With that caveat out of the way, let’s look at what Jesus says here. And what he says is Ready or not, I’m coming!

Jesus uses this morning, in this passage, the language of servants and masters. Firstly, we see Jesus talking about servants who are waiting for their master to return from a wedding feast. This is essentially like employees working while their boss is gone for the day.

Jesus says to stay ready. Keep working and be prepared, for the boss can come back at any moment. You never know when he will return, so be ready so that you can be sure to welcome him with open arms.

Don’t be lazy in your work. Don’t be lazy in your faith. Don’t be frantic either. Be ready.

Who is the good servant? Is it the one who is prepared? Who is ready and waiting for the master to return? Or the one who is not paying attention? Who is caught by surprise and not doing what he is supposed to be doing?

Blessed are the ones who the master finds ready and awake, prepared and faithful. In that case, the tables will be turned, Jesus says. For the Master will serve the servants.

And that’s exactly what Jesus did. Sometimes, especially when Jesus is talking about time, sometimes it can be difficult to identify if Jesus is talking past, present, or future. We see him at different times speaking of his first coming, his first advent, his birth and earthly ministry. And other times, looking ahead to his second coming, the distant future, the eternal, spiritual ministry.

And in his first coming, Jesus did exactly what he says here. The Master serves the servants. We will see coming up in the last days of Jesus, that Jesus will get down and wash the feet of his disciples. A reversal of roles.

Jesus says blessed are those who are awake and paying attention, for the master will clothe and serve them. And the longer it takes for the master to come back, the more blessed are those whom he finds awake. Faithfulness.

 

Now, there are people all throughout history who seem like they are being faithful and staying prepared. Instead, they thought they had figured out when Jesus was coming back and, of course, were wrong. Some have been pretty famous for it as well.

Harold Camping was a radio minister based here in California, starting in 1958. He first predicted Christ’s return in 1994. He predicted three successive wrong dates. Then he did the same in 2011. One date, wrong, then a second date a few months later. Wrong again. He passed away two years later.

The Millerites were a group of followers of William Miller in the 1830s and 40s. He did all sorts of fancy math, mostly using the book of Daniel. He figured out that Jesus was going to return sometime in 1843. When that didn’t happen, he said that Jesus did actually return, but it was a spiritual return, doubling down on his false prophecy. This group led directly to the found of the Seventh Day Adventists and less immediately, though still directly to the founding of the Jehovah’s witnesses.

My point in talking about these two of many, many, many who have wrongly predicted Jesus’ return, is that there are ways in which we can be too focused. WE can be too focused if we are focusing on the wrong aspect. These men were too focused on the second coming of Jesus because they were focusing on the when. We are told not to worry about the when, only that we are to be prepared because it will happen.

Peter tells us that God is not slow that some should say so that the second coming will take place at the exact time and in the exact form as determined by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time. WE are not to focus on the dates, which Jesus says elsewhere not even he nor the angels in heaven know the time. Instead, we are to focus on faithfulness.

Ezekiel 33, verses 8 & 9:

 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

 

WE are to be faithful with the message, the Gospel, and the responsibilities that he has given us. IF we are not, we will answer for it. Since we don’t know and won’t know when his return will actually be, only that he will return as a thief in the night. That doesn’t not mean that he will return in secret, as some believe. His return will be the most public event to ever occur in history. Every single person, every set of eyes, every set of ears, every single soul will know when Christ returns in power. Like a thief in the night, instead, means that there will be no warning, no reason to think that it will be that day.

So, we have the dual responsibilities to act and to live as though it could still be another 2000 years until he comes. We work for the good of our cities. We put down roots, raise families, steward God’s creation, raise kids and grandkids and so on. All the things that will leave lasting legacies. And at the same time, we act and live as if I won’t finish this sermon because he could come back in the blink of an eye. We make sure that we are faithful and wise. That we do the things He has for us to do. We don’t wait until tomorrow to do what God has told us to do today. We sound the alarm from the watch tower.

 

 

Peter asks Jesus, in the middle of all this, “Are you telling this to us? (Meaning the disciples) or to the greater crowds and masses?”

This is a valid question that we often need to ask when we read the comments and teachings of Jesus. The answer of who Jesus is addressing changes depending on the content and the context of the passage. Sometimes Jesus is speaking to his disciples specifically. Sometimes he is speaking to Christians in general. Sometimes he is speaking to the multitudes, the whole of humanity.

Jesus answers Peter, though not like Peter wanted him to, as usual. Jesus instead, answers what to me sounds like Luke 11:28, Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

Essentially, we are not owners. However, we are managers and stewards of Gods possessions. This is not our world; this is His world. Our house is not our house, it is His house. Our possessions are not our possessions, they are His possessions. My life is not my life. Your life is not your life. Our Lives are His Lives.

And Jesus is telling this to his followers in general, Christians in all times and places, but even more specifically to his Apostles, whom he would entrust the building of his church to. This is not their church. This is not our church. This is not my church, Dave’s church, Mikes church, Jim’s church, not even Bangor’s church. This is God’s church. And Jesus is the head of it.

And he who is faithful and wise, he will be rewarded. Do the work that God has set before. Be diligent and prepared and you will receive your rewards. OF course, we know that this is not anywhere close to doing those works in order to earn rewards, especially the reward of salvation.

Salvation, the ultimate reward of being saved from the wrath of God due to our sins, is by the grace of God alone, through our faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. But as servants of our LORD, we show our faith by faithfully obeying Him. And, as a general rule, we see often, faithfulness and obedience are rewarded here on earth.

Faithfulness, its important to remember, does not lead to faith. Faithfulness instead flows from faith. To be clear, salvation and citizenship in Gods Kingdom are Not, repeat, not a reward for faithfulness. Salvation is a gift from God by his grace, through faith in the work, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is a reward for Christ’s faithfulness.

 

The gist of the last section here is that how much we know, and what we choose to do with it will determine how God deals with us. Those who refuse to be faithful servants will not be rewarded. There are sins of omission, which means not doing what you’re supposed to and sins of commission, doing things you’re not supposed to do. Both types of sins get punished. Both types of sins are worthy of the wrath of God. We remember that all will be revealed in the end.

 

Lastly, everything you do, do it unto the LORD. IF you are faithful with what Gid has given you, if you are faithful with what you know and what you are given, God will give you and trust you with more.

 

 

Be ready. Pray. Serve. Focus on the coming of His Kingdom. Focus on His Will. The question ultimately comes down not to What is required of us? But what has been bestowed to us?

Faithfulness.

Faithfulness in Christs work and in his promises.

Philip Ryken writes: Even apart from his promises, we know that Jesus must come again to consummate his saving work. How else can every wrong be righted and every evil brought to justice? How else can Satan be defeated and condemned to Hell? How else can Jesus gather his people to himself? How else can he receive the honor that he alone deserves, unless he comes again in power and glory? Jesus is coming- just as he promised- to judge the world. Are you ready or not?

 

          I will leave us with Titus 2:11-14:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

 

Let’s Pray

Luke 12:13-34 Jesus is the Son of Man Earthly Worries produce Anxiety

Luke 12:13-34

Jesus is the Son of Man

Earthly Worries produce Anxiety

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 12.

 

As we continue through our Journey through Luke’s Gospel, we are seeing Jesus continue to teach and train his disciples, preparing them for ministry after he leaves. He is traveling to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission, his ministry and then he will leave them to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

In this section we are looking at and have been looking Jesus has a bigger theme that transcends the individual sections that our Bible is broken up into. Jesus is making sure that his disciples and followers are focused on eternity.

This life will pass, this body will decay, this world will burn up and be recreated. IT is all temporary. Eternity is forever. Jesus challenges and asks the question, which one will you focus on? The earthly physical, or the eternal? The one who has some authority, a little authority here on earth? Or the one who has full, eternal authority?

Jesus is going to continue that emphasis in the passage we are looking at this morning. WE are going to read Luke chapter 12, verses 13-34, a bit of a longer passage. Ill be reading, as always, out of the English Standard Version. I encourage you to grab your preferred translation and follow along, reading for yourself the word of God.

The Holy Spirit inspires Luke to record the Words of Jesus, writing:

 

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[c] 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,[d] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[e] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

Jesus was a great teacher. He was able to continue to make his points even when people interrupted and tried to change the subject or even redirect the subject to their benefit. We see this often in the Gospels. Jesus is talking and teaching, and some guy, often a scribe or a pharisee, though unidentified this time, interrupts to talk about their own thing. Jesus takes that, usually doesn’t answer the question, or at least not what the person interrupted wanted him to answer, and Jesus then uses it to continue making his points, usually regarding the Kingdom of God.

That’s what happens here as Jesus is teaching and talking and this guy comes up and wants Jesus to arbitrate in a dispute between two brothers. This guy recognized Jesus as a type of Authority. He saw Jesus as a good teacher who had wisdom. He saw a man that people listened to. He saw that Jesus could speak into the lives of people who were there listening. And He recognized Jesus as a rabbi. One of the issues is that he recognizes Jesus as an authority only in the categories of life where he wants Jesus to be an authority.

Rabbis were given authority in the books of Moses to settle disputes of inheritance. This wasn’t necessarily uncommon. A few issues are here though. Jesus was not an official, trained rabbi. And it appears that this was not a legitimate dispute. It seems this was purely covetousness, greed on the part of the brother asking for Jesus to judge in his favor.

Jesus, for his part, knew why this guy was appealing to him, including his view of him as a Rabbi. But Jesus knew what his mission was. He knew why he was here on Earth. Jesus knew that he was not here to settle our disputes with each other, though his teachings and the Bible will help us if we have a dispute.

His purpose instead was to save sinners, not to settle disputes. We will see coming up later in this chapter that he says he does not bring peace, but division. Now, that’s one of the most important verses to make sure we know the context for, but my point is that Jesus was not here to settle all of our arguments. He is not here to focus on earthly material possessions, but on the eternal Kingdom of God.

And Jesus says to this guy, essentially, “You’re not making me The authority over all your life, why should I play the authority over this one little section? Jesus was refusing to play the arbitrator, refusing to be the judge over the brother’s dispute.

Warren Weirsbe sums up: Jesus refused to get involved. Why? Because he knew that no answer would solve the real problem, which was covetousness in the hearts of the two brothers.”

          Jesus showed that this guy was putting earthly material goods higher than God. This was a direct violation of Exodus 20:17, Thou shall not covet. RC Sproul shows why coveting is that serious. He writes: Have you ever wondered why God in his infinite wisdom included a law against coveting in his top 10 commandments? Perhaps God knows something about what leads to stealing, about what leads to jealousy, about what leads to murder and to war. Covetousness is the cause of a persons wanting for himself what God in his beneficence has graciously bestowed upon someone else. The sin of covetousness reveals something about the darkest part of our fallen humanity.”

          Despite what our culture, our society and our own selfish human nature try to instill in us, coveting is not a lesser sin. It leads us into so many other sins in addition to itself.

Jesus saw that the greatest need in these two brothers, arguing over their inheritance was not conflict resolution, but was a true heart change. It is that heart change that will ensure the focus of this man will change from this life, these earthly goods, onto the eternal, heavenly focus.

To emphasis his point, Jesus tells the crowd a parable called the Rich young Fool. In this parable, the rich man’s fields and crops started producing even more abundantly. So much so that the man had nowhere to store his goods.

He was spending all his time and focus trying to hoard these new possessions. Storing and acquiring more goods and building more storage to accommodate said belongings.

Now, I think all of us in this room would agree that the man was entitled to the profits and abundance of what was produced by what he owned. I don’t think there is anything in scripture that disagrees with that. But there is a bigger point that Jesus is making here. This man gives no thought to his neighbor and helping those who had less, and he gave no thought to thanking God for the abundance or to give to God in worship.

The man cared nothing other than continuing to accumulate more goods until he had enough. He was the epitome of the new version of the same old American Dream. Eat, Drink, Be Merry for tomorrow we may die. He thought about nobody else other than himself. Many commentaries point out the that even the language is filled with selfishness. One of them points out that: The language in verses 17-19 reveals an ingrained selfishness. In the Greek the personal pronoun “my” occurs 4 times and the “I” 8 times.

          This man was of course under no obligation to give away all his belongings, sell everything and give it all away, but as Jesus is making clear, he was under the obligation to be thankful to God and to give with a generous heart. Paul writes 2 Corinthians 8:15:  As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

We also see that these possessions do nothing to help our soul and eternal destination. Jesus says in Matthew 16:26,  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? 

          This man thought he had it all. He was focused on getting enough and living the good life. Comfort and security are among the biggest idols of today. And they are so tempting because we convince ourselves that they are Gods highest calling for ourselves. This man was ready to retire and trust in his riches to take care of him.

Jesus points out that this man couldn’t take any of it with him. HE had sent his life trying to accumulate enough. Enough to enjoy the rest of life. And yet, when he does, his life was to end that very night. What benefit were those extra-large storehouses and what benefit was all the goods stored in them.

 

 

One commentator sees the language of this and says that the man’s loan of mortal existence was called due.

You know, one recent study suggests that Christians in America give an average of less than 4% of their income to Gospel work. And so, the question that Jesus makes us ponder, Are we being rich to God? Are we being generous and thankful? Or are we concerned with keeping and accumulating and getting our fair share?

 

Kent Hughes remarks on this passage and this may sound awful familiar to us today: The domestic concern that elicited the parable suggests a particular warning regarding an overweening demand to get “our fair share.” It is so much better to take less than our fair share or to give it away. Squabbling over an inheritance is not worth it. Many, in retrospect, would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to forgo the miseries that came as a result of insisting on their rightful portion. As Christians,

He says, we can and should avoid such deadly errors.

 

Jesus then moves on from the parable and the challenge and moves into a teaching monologue. The summation is, essentially that anxiety comes from concerns of worldly goods and not trusting that God himself will provide what is needed.

Corrie Ten Boom has said, Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.

          George MacDonald once put it: No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrows burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.

          Earthly, physical goods that rust and decay, these are not worth the effort and worry that most put into them. There is more to this life than the physical. We forget or discount the spiritual.

As a way to justify discounting the spiritual, some have a saying, you may have heard. They say that some are too heavenly minded to do earthly good. The truth is, in fact, the opposite. The more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we will do.

Don’t get me wrong, and more importantly, don’t get Jesus wrong and misunderstand what he is saying. Here and now do matter. We do need things in order to live and go through life. But here and now do not matter as much as the then and forever. And Jesus makes clear in this section that God loves us enough that he will make sure the bare necessities are covered.

 

He uses two examples, one for food and one for clothing. The Ravens and the lilies of the field do not work for their food and to be clothed in wonderful colors. They do not do good works in order to receive God’s blessings and Guess What? Neither do we!

We are more important to God the Father than ravens. We are more important to God the Father than lilies and the fields and grass.

When we worry and get anxious, then we don’t trust that our daily needs will be met. That’s when we get our selves in trouble. Worry and anxiety get in the way of us working for the kingdom of God. Instead, we have to work for ourselves and our needs before we can even consider working for what God wants.

That’s why Jesus says to seek first His Kingdom. Focus on the important, the everlasting, the Holy. Jesus says, focus on this and everything else will take care of itself.

As one commentator puts it: TO seek is to set your heart on something; to make it your main objective. What you seek is what you think about; it is what you pursue; it is what you live for.

seek his[e] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

          Jesus speaks on these topics in a basically parallel passage in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. There he adds a key word, Seek first the kingdom of God And His Righteousness.

          Its interesting that every commentator I read on this passage pointed out that seeking the Kingdom of God was specifically an act of the already converted. Unbelievers cannot seek the Kingdom of God. But believers, followers of Christ, we can, and we should. For it is getting more and more of the Kingdom, getting closer and closer to Christ, seeking him more and more, this is how we are sanctified and transformed.

Romans 12:1&2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

 

          The will of God is his Kingdom manifest.

Little Flock, Jesus says, do not fear. You already have the kingdom. It is Gods good pleasure and desire to give it to his children. RC Sproul says that since we already have the Kingdom of God, we should therefore concentrate our energies on the interests of the Kingdom.

We can’t do kingdom work until we have the kingdom. Now that we have the kingdom, go do kingdom work.

 

This is of course not laying down legal laws from God. At least not in the sense that every one of us are called to sell everything we own and hit the road with no possessions and no savings and that’s the only way to be holy and righteous.

That’s called poverty theology and it’s just as much a false gospel as the prosperity theology, or the Health and Wellness Gospel or Name it and claim it or whatever version of it you have heard.

The point that Jesus is making is twofold. Trust God. Trust that he loves and if he loves you, he will provide for you. Second, if we hold to that trust, our heart will show it by us being generous. I love how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians , saying  The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully[d] will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 

Be generous. This is being rich to God. Hold your possessions with an open hand and an open heart. Be willing to give it up if and when you are called to. As Hope and I often say, “You can’t outgive God.”

For where your treasure, there your heart is also.

 

When our heart is on the Kingdom of God, we will not worry about the here and now. We will not focus on our worries and anxiety. Jesus wants us to have our priorities on the right things. When we focus on our anxiety and our worries, we take our focus off of God. We blow up our perception of what might happen into raging rivers and massive mountains.

 

I’m going to leave you with a story about Abraham Lincoln as recounted by Kent Hughes:

In his circuit riding days Lincoln and his companions, riding to the next session of court, had crossed many swollen rivers on one particular journey, but the formidable Fox River was still ahead of them. They said to one another, “IF these streams give us so much trouble, how shall we get over the Fox River?” When Darkness fell, they stopped for the night at a log tavern, where they fell in with the Methodist presiding elder of the district who rode through the country in all kinds of weather and knew all about the Fox River. They gathered about him and asked him about the present state of the river. “Oh, yes,” replied the circuit rider, “I know all about the Fox River. I have crossed it often and understand it well. But I have one fixed rule with regard to the Fox River—I never cross it till I reach it.”

 

Phillipians 4:6&7: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Lets Pray.

Luke 12:1-12 Jesus is the Son of Man IN Christ Alone

Luke 12:1-12

Jesus is the Son of Man

IN Christ Alone

          All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 12. Right around the halfway point as we go through the Gospel of Luke.

Over the last few chapters, Jesus has been giving a lot of application to the knowledge of the two greatest laws; Love God and Love your Neighbor.  Jesus has been showing the disciples, the Pharisees and anyone else who ill listen that to Love God IS to Love you Neighbor. You can’t have one without the other.

Last week, the passage we looked at showed Jesus addressing and confronting the Pharisees and their wrong understanding resulting in their wrong attempts at Loving God. They were portraying outward holiness and moral righteousness but doing so without Loving their neighbors. They were attempting to obey the rules without any love, grace or mercy.

After that, we read of the Pharisees, in Luke 11:53 & 54:

As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

 

They were mad at Jesus and wanted to trap him and end his public teaching and ministry. That leads immediately into this morning’s passage that we are going to read and look. This morning we are looking at Luke chapter 12, verses 1-12. I will be reading out of my preferred translation, the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 12:1-12, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, records the following:

 

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.[a] Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[b] And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

So, many, many thousands of people are crowding around Jesus and wanting to hear what he has to say. The way this reads, this appears to be as and immediately after Jesus leaves the meal he was having with the Pharisees and lawyers at the end of Chapter 11. And the big crowds had been gathering and following and waiting.

As a result of what he witnessed and what he shared in the dinner, Jesus starts speaking to the disciples, purposely where the rest of the crowd can here as well. Sometimes Jesus would wait until he had just the 12 around him to share teachings and warning. Others, just the larger group of disciples. This time, he wanted as many people as possible to hear and to heed these warnings.

He tells them to Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees. Specifically, he is referring to the hypocrisy that Jesus just exposed in them. He pointed it out to them at the dinner and now he was warning the people in public. He is warning them about when our words and actions don’t match and when our words and hearts don’t match.

He uses this phrase, beware the leaven of the pharisees. He uses it specifically. A little bit of their influence can go a long way. Paul writes in numerous places, but especially Galatians 5:9, A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company ruins good morals.” The negative influence, the hypocrisy of the pharisees can spread without us even seeing it. Sin generally and some sins specifically, like hypocrisy, spread like cancer. They start little by little; we don’t even notice they are there. But then it starts spreading, slowly and unnoticed. Eventually, if left unchecked, it grows and takes over and eventually it kills us.

The idea of leaven can be good too. We see coming up in Luke 13:21, that Jesus uses it to explain the spread of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is here and now, but it is not fully realized yet. It is spreading through  this world, through history like leaven through dough.

As the pharisees negative influence spreads through, a little going a long way, so does a Christians positive influence, Christianity’s influence, a little can go a long way in the lives of people around us. It might seem to be just a little, it may be just a little, but it can go a long, long way and it is a part of something much, much bigger, the work of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus reassures and warns us that all will be revealed in the end. All of our sins will be exposed. Especially when the disciples would see the hypocrisy of the pharisees, when we see the sins of those around us seeming to go unnoticed and unpunished, we can be reassured that God sees and they will be exposed in the end.

But it is also a warning. All those moments, all those stray thoughts, all those things that we do and say and think and hide that nobody else knows about. All of it will be exposed and put on display at the end when we stand before the Great Throne in judgment.

Its important to note that it is not just non-Christians who will stand in judgment at the end. We all will. RC Sproul writes it well:

Many Christians have the misguided idea that Christians don’t have to worry about this disclosure on judgment day. They assume its only the pagan or the corrupt person or the Pharisee who has to fear. After all, we have passed from the judgment to life, and we know that one of the benefits of our justification is that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to worry about being condemned by God on the last day. On the last day, your judge and your defense attorney will be Jesus Christ. However, even though our entrance to Heaven is not based in any way on our good works, and though our good works contribute nothing to our salvation, every one of us will be evaluated on that day according to our works. The truth about our obedience, our sanctification, and our profession of faith will be made manifest.

 

What we do and what we say and all of our actions and works do nothing to affect our eternal destination. However, our deeds and our actions will be made known and will be see both the good that we have done and the evil that we have done.

There is a purpose, I presume to us seeing all the evil we have done at the last judgment. When we see all the sins we have committed, all the evil we have been a part of, the cosmic treason that we have committed against God, we will see how great his grace and how undeserving we are of said grace.

 

Now, in the context of this passage, what Jesus is saying, he is speaking of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees being exposed. They will not be able to hide their sins and their hypocrisy from God. Our natural tendency is to try to hide our sins, even from God. This goes all the way back to Genesis 3. After Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and sinned, bringing sin and death into the world, they tried to hide form God. They recognized that they were standing before him naked and unashamed. They made coverings from fig leaves, and we have been trying to cover up our sins ever since.

 

Now, to be clear. Sin does not automatically equal hypocrisy. We all sin. We all fail. That is something that we will be struggling with and fighting against for the rest of our physical and natural lives. But pretending that we don’t sin, Not acknowledging our sins, acting like our sins aren’t as bad as anyone else’s sins, only pointing out other people’s sins, that’s hypocrisy.

 

The hypocrisy of the Pharisees stemmed from them fearing the opinions of men and their fellow Pharisees more than fearing God. They wanted the people to fear their opinions and judgments and to submit to them. Jesus says, don’t fear those who can kill the body only.

The Pharisees those days had the ability and some authority to kill the body. We see this through the book of Acts, Paul specifically was tasked with tracking down early Christians, and he watched over and approved of the killing and stoning of Stephen.  Certain sins were punished by stoning. The woman caught in adultery in John 8 was going to be stoned until Jesus said what he said.

Governments, which God says he puts in place, sometimes specifically with this purpose in mind according to Romans 13, have the ability to kill the body. OF course, criminals have that ability as well.

God doesn’t ever promise to spare our physical natural lives in every situation. History is full of martyrs who have given up their lives for their faith, to stand for Jesus. The Bible shows many of them, history shows that every one of the Apostles was martyred except John who survived attempts to martyr him. Read Fox’s Book of Martyrs for many more examples. The Reformation was chock full of examples. Many, many Christians around the world today are dying right now for the faith that many American Christians take for granted.

But as Jesus points out, if they do punish you or kill your body, that is the end of their ability to influence you or affect you. They can’t do anything more to you at that point. They have no authority over eternity. Instead of fearing men, fear the one who has authority over eternity.

There are different types of fear. The easiest way to describe this fear, the fear of the LORD that Jesus is calling us to, is the type of fear that involves awe and reverence. In certain contexts, this is all that is needed. But it involves more than this. And especially in what Jesus is saying, it also involves fear, being afraid. We should be afraid of a God who has the power and authority to determine our eternal destiny.

Proverbs says in multiple places that the Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 36 says that the wicked have no fear of God before their eyes. But there is a right kind of fear. This is the fear we see in Moses in Exodus 3 when he was afraid to look upon God. We see it in Isaiah 6, when he was set down before the LORD and professed that he was a man of unclean lips. This is the fear that we should have of Him.

He is the Judge who will welcome us to Heaven or the one who will damn us to Hell. One commentator reminds us that Hell is not Satan’s dominion but instead his prison. He is not the one who has authority in Hell, God is sovereign over all of His creation, and this includes Hell.

But there is a balance to that fear for those who are in Christ. We are to fear God instead of Man and we are to have this healthy fear of God. But we are also to remember that the place he has prepared for us is secured and he will not forget us or forsake us.

Sparrows are the cheapest animals that you could buy at that time. Almost literally a dime a dozen. And God remembers them all. We are infinitely more valuable than sparrows. God knows and never forgets the numbers of hairs on your head. Even as that number changes as we age, God still knows.

We fear him and all that it entails; awe, reverence, and fear itself. But we also remember that he loves us, he remembers us, and he cares for us. Paraphrasing RC Sproul, we fear Him on one hand, and on the other, we have no fear.

God does not send people to Hell because he forgets about them, or he forsakes them. He doesn’t send people to because he wants to or because it makes him happy.

So, what does determine whether we are welcomed into eternal glory in Heaven or if we are damned to Hell?

Jesus says, acknowledge me, trust in me, believe in me and you’re in. By Gods grace our hearts are changed and our eyes are opened. We see the truth and put our faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

We can’t believe and then tell people we don’t believe. Romans 10:9, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Of course, words by themselves, just like actions or works by themselves are nothing, they are not enough to save us or to damn us. The issue is our heart. And what flows out of us is usually a pretty good indication of what’s in our heart.

Verse 9, if you reject or deny Christ, you will be denied heaven and you will be rejected from spending eternity with Christ. This is true no matter what our words say. Not everyone who prayers a prayer or makes a public confession of Christ has been legitimately changed by the Holy Spirit. Not everyone who is physically in the church is spiritually in the church. Paul writes in Romans 9, not all who are descended form Israel belong to Israel and the meaning of that is a sermon or discussion for a different time, but it is the same with he churches today. Not all who are in the church belong to the church.

Not everyone who publicly identifies as a Christian is truly saved or has been truly changed by the Holy Spirit. If we reject Christ in our hearts, if we reject Christ and his works, he will reject us.

Now, he does say that we are able to have all our sins forgiven. We could blaspheme Jesus and that is able to be forgiven. Which is good because before Christ, we all speak against God, and we all blaspheme Christ. And if that was unforgiveable, we would all be out of luck.

 

Jesus says something that has been the source of controversy, of confusion and of despair for Christians for 2000 years. The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

There have been many different ideas, many different beliefs, many different interpretations on what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. We are not going to argue over or let it divide us.

Before we look at this, I want to remind us all of the first two rules of understanding the Bible. First, we let the Bible interpret the Bible. Let scripture interpret scripture. IF we don’t know what something means, we look at what scripture says in other places on the same subject or in other places that can speak to the same thing. Second, we let the clear scripture interpret the unclear scripture. That’s the key to what we are looking at hear.

So, what do we know that the scriptures say clearly?

1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us. We know that Christ died on the cross or the forgiveness of sins. Verses 8 & 9 here in this passage in Luke show that even speaking against Jesus can be forgiven. John 3:36 says Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

According to one commentator, The Blood of Christ is sufficient for any sinner who truly repents- even a sinner who has on occasion denied the name of Christ.

We have seen in scriptures such a wide variety of sins, even and especially serious, crazy sins be forgiven. Adultery, lying, eating from the forbidden tree, murder, false teachings and prophecy. So much more.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

All those sins were forgiven. Peter says in Acts 2:38: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, Jesus died for the sins of the world. All sin can be forgiven except this, what can it mean? I think the key to understanding this is right here in the passage we are looking at this morning, all the information we need is right here.

Verse 8 & 9: And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God

 

How I read this, the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is dying while still rejecting Christ, denying Christ. It is dying without the Holy Spirit doing his regenerating work on us. IF you die without having placed your trust and faith in Christ, you are not able to be forgiven. There is no forgiveness outside of Christ Jesus. In context, to me, that’s the only thing this could mean.

The key to what we are reading this morning is the idea of fear of man vs the fear of God. And Jesus reiterates that as we finish up in verses 11 & 12. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

We see immediate proof of this throughout the book of acts. In context, the takeaway, application is that if you are worried about denying Christ in the face of opposition, in the face of true persecution, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can not be unafraid or unashamed in our own strength and in our own power. We can only do it through His power, through the power and the strength of the Holy Spirit.

 

I am going to leave you with a story about Martin Luther showing the fear of God overcoming the fear of Man. This is relayed from Kent Hughes in his commentary on Luke.

When Martin Luther first stood before the Diet of Worms, John Eck, the archbishop of Trier, asked him, “Martin Luther, do you recant of the heresies in your writings?…Do you defend them all or do you care to reject a part?” Luther gave the quiet answer, “This touches God and His word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this, Christ said, He who denies me before men, him I will deny before the Father. To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it over.”

Luther asked for 24 hours to consider the situation. Eck and the whole assembly were amazed. How could the supreme intellectual leader of this movement ask for more time to think? Was he succumbing to fear?

Hughes continues:

That night, Luther and his colleagues passionately called out to God in now-celebrated prayers. With the rising of the sun another, larger hall was chosen, and it was so crowded that scarcely anyone except the emperor could sit. Eck, spoke long and eloquently in the flickering candlelight, concluding, “I ask you Martin- answer candidly and without horns- do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

Luther contra mundum spoke, and his voice rang. He spoke first in German and then in Latin:

“Since then your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by scripture and plain reason- I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other.  God help me. Amen.”

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Luke 11:33-54 Jesus is the Son of Man: Whitewashed Tombs

Luke 11:33-54

Jesus is the Son of Man

Whitewashed Tombs

All right, let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible, if you need a Bible, please see me after the service and I will make sure we can get one into your hands.

 

So, Jesus is continuing in the same setting, continuing to speak to the same crowd, the same gathering that we have seen him in the last few weeks. And his main message has been, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

Jesus is emphasizing a combination of head knowledge, inner trust and outward action. There is an inner change first, and then, flowing from that, there is the outer, behavioral change.

Its important to remember that our works and our behavior flow from our faith and salvation, not the other way around. All of that, the points Jesus makes and the things that he says, all continue to flow into the passage we are looking at this morning.

We are going to be reading Luke chapter 11, verses 33-54, a bit of a longer passage to read. I’m going to be reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 11:33-54, the Holy spirit inspires Luke to write:

 

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

37 While Jesus[e] was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

 

May God Bless the Reading of the Word

 

So, a lot to get into here. Starting with the first section here, Jesus is saying two different things in regard to light shining. First is, of course, that the light inside of us cannot and was never meant to be hidden. That inner change, that heart change is meant to be shown to those around us.

That light that shines from that heart change inside of us, what good is it if we hide it? Light is meant to shine, there is no point in being a lamp, if you are going to be covered up. When the light is lit inside of us, it will make itself known.

Secondly, Jesus’ work, the light of the Gospel, the signs and wonders he did, His death, burial and resurrection, they were down in plain sight, for all the world to see.

The scriptures, especially psalm 119 show us that the word of God is the light of the world. I especially like two verses from psalm 119, verse 130 says

The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.

 

          and verse 105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

 

Then Jesus also uses the analogy of our eyes being the lamp of our body. The correlation regarding blindness and sight, between lightness and dark. When your eyes see, when they are working correctly, when God has taken the blindness away form you, you can see the light that already exists, The light of the Gospel, even better.

We talked the last few weeks about the desire for more signs, more wonders, more evidence of who Jesus was. In the words of RC Sproul, Jesus here is saying, “The people seeking a sign did not need more light, but better receptiveness to the light they already had. What God was doing in Jesus was plain enough.”

          The light and the darkness are used biblically to describe our spiritual condition and our sin nature. When we are in the darkness, we desire the darkness. We want to stay in the darkness because that’s where we are comfortable. We are comfortable in and with our sins. We think we are good because we avoid or protest against certain sins, but we have our own secret pet sins that we keep in the dark.

But the light drives out the darkness. The light of the Gospel inside of us exposes us to our sins, exposes our sins to us. We desire to stop and quit those sins because the darkness cannot exist in the light.

In verse 37, the scene starts to shift. One Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. Now, many will tell you that this was a setup and that this pharisee was trying to trap Jesus from the beginning. That might be true, however, there is nothing in the text that indicates this.

Not all the individuals who were pharisees were Jesus enemies. Nicodemus was a pharisee. This unnamed pharisee invited Jesus to dinner and Luke does not tell us that there were ulterior motives.

Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew how it was going to turn out and he still went. One commentator points out one principal from this is that we should always be looking for opportunities to build relationships, to build bridges and get to know people.

Jesus accepted the invitation and went to eat with the pharisee, seemingly at a big dinner party with lots of other pharisees and lawyers, or scribes.  And Jesus sat down with out ceremonially washing his hands before the meal.

THE SCANDAL!

The pharisees added so many man made traditions and rules and regulations to the law, to the rules that God gave down and this was one of them. The idea here was that our hands got dirty each and every day, some of it was ceremonially and ritually unclean. Since many of the meals in that day were eaten directly with the hands, this presented a problem to them.

The Mishna is major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. This is where all the man-made traditions of the pharisees and the rabbis throughout Jewish history to that point were written down. We have the records of what was a part of the pharisaical law of the time. In the Mishna it says that “tradition is the man-made fence around the law.”

          The noble idea being, the further away from the line we stay, the less likely chance we have at crossing it. We will return to that later.

 

          So, Jesus shocks His host and the pharisees by not ceremonially washing his hands. When they say something, Jesus comes back at them. He tells them outer physical cleanliness is not enough.

          In fact, outer cleanliness matters less than inner holiness, than inner righteousness. The condition of the heart is what God sees. It is not our outward behavior that makes us clean. Its why we sing and read in the Bible, “Create in me a clean heart.”

          Our outward behavior needs to flow from a clean heart that God gives us. This is the opposite of what our nature tries to do which is that we need to behave outwardly in order to cleanse ourselves.

          God tells the Israel through the prophets, throughout the Old Testament, in many different ways, I desire Mercy not sacrifice. This is, in essence, what Jesus is telling the group here. You misunderstand what it is that God desires from you.

          You are taking what is good, taking the law that God gave, taking what is right and you are taking it an extreme absurd. Your focus is more on your outward appearance and behavior than on the Heart of God.

          The pharisees were focused on confronting and avoiding sin, which is a good thing. They would have been protesting against same sex marriage and abortion and all sort of other sins. They would have been setting up boycotts of various companies and businesses because of their support of various things or their selling of stuff. Fighting sex trafficking and prostitution and pornography.

          The problem is not that they were fighting those causes or trying to eliminate those sins and that evil.  The problem was that they were more focused on all that instead of, or at the expense of loving God and loving neighbor and treating all people as image bearers of God.

          Jesus says, you are supposed to do both. You are supposed to fight against sin and evil as a way of loving God and loving your neighbor, not as a way to avoid loving God and loving your neighbor.

 

          But, like so many that we see in this world, and maybe like so many that we know, Jesus shows that they were more interested in people seeing them and their good works and their status’. They wanted to make sure people knew they were going to church, that they were pillars of the community, that they gave to the needy, that they volunteered, that they were a moral compass.

          Again, all of those are good things, except when that is the reason that you do them. Goods deeds done for the wrong reasons are not good. The right thing done for the wrong reasons are wrong.

          People see the outward signs and outer moral shell and they are tricked into not realizing that a person is spiritually dead on the inside.

          Jesus speaks of unmarked and hidden graves. Graves would make people ceremonially unclean. Hidden and unmarked graves would be a hidden source of spiritual impurity.

          The pharisees, because their outer behavior was not often accompanied with the inner heart change, they were hidden sources of spiritual impurity to those around them. They made people want to be like them, act as good as them, and that this was the key to earning favor with God.

         

          Jesus was not holding back any punches here. And the people in the room knew it. He was talking about them, and they were not happy. They were feeling convicted. One of the lawyers, one of the professional theologians, he says to Jesus, woah now, you are insulting us!

          The lawyer would have been at home here today. Jesus don’t say what your saying, even if its true, because we might be offended. And if we are offended then it must not be true, so there. As we know, there is no greater sin in today’s society than to offend somebody. It seems it wasn’t so dissimilar 2000 years ago.

          Now, it is very easy, when confronted with your sins, to respond by getting offended. The first thing we need to do, if someone says something that we get offended by, is to look deep in ourselves. We need to see if there is any truth or validity to what is being said. Often times getting offended is a defense mechanism for trying to avoid acknowledging the truth.

          That being said, we know that Jesus offends, that the Gospel offends, the light of the Gospel, as we mentioned earlier shines a lot on people’s sin and that makes people offended and defensive. However, nowhere in scripture does it allow for us to be offensive. As Paul says in Ephesians 4, we are to speak the truth in love.   Let Jesus and the Gospel do what they are going to do, we are to share it in love.

 

          This lawyer says Hey, you’re offending us. Jesus’ response, Woe to You!

 

          Woe to you putting extra burdens on the law. Jesus came to lift these burdens, burdens that God never designed us to be able to bear.

          Again, the original idea was to avoid getting close to sin, to avoid getting close to breaking Gods law. The pharisees had a great respect for the holiness of God and wanted to obey what they understood was the purpose of His laws.

          But what does this lead to? How far can I go without it being sin? How can I avoid breaking this law but still do whatever I want? This goes back to Eve in the Garden. God told Adam, don’t eat from the tree. When the serpent asked Eve, she said God said don’t even touch it. This extra level of fence around the law, as the Mishna out it, adds extra burden to us that is hard for us to bear.

          Even when the lawyers and pharisees were “honoring” the fallen prophets of the past, it was an outward honoring. They were still rejecting them. When the prophets were active, Israel, the kings, all the people, they refused to listen to the prophets, refused to hear the Word of God. They persecuted and killed them all.

          They were still refusing to listen to them. They were pretending to honor them but were really dishonoring them. If they wanted to honor the prophets of the past, they would live how the prophets described and to do what they said to do.

          This generation, the generation that Jesus was talking to, they were held even more responsible because they had Jesus right there in front of them, physically, literally right there, sitting with them and dining with them. And they rejected, persecuted and kill Him just as their fathers had done to the prophets, just as they and their children would do to the Apostles. There are clear allusions to verses 31 and 32 here as well, that Jesus is the greater prophet and the greater Apostle.

          In verse 52, Jesus rebukes the lawyers, saying, “you have taken away the key of knowledge.” The lawyers felt that their additions to the law should be even more held to than Gods laws because they were clearer and easier to understand. Jesus is telling them they are wrong. As one commentator points out that these traditions, these additions to the law, they made it impossible for the regular people to understand the meaning and purpose of the law.

 

          Instead, the lawyers used these additions and traditions to avoid the demands of the law itself. As I mentioned earlier, how can I technically keep the law but still do whatever I want?

          As Jesus leaves this scene, this crowd and especially the people who he was at dinner with, he leaves many of them mad and scheming. They would spend the rest of His life trying to get him to say something wrong, to answer questions, to teach something that would allow them to persecute and prosecute Him. Jesus, as of chapter 9 has set his eyes on his journey to Jerusalem. Here and know, the Pharisees and lawyers have set their eyes on Him. And not in the right way.

 

          Philip Ryken writes that the Christian faith is not a law to keep but is a Gospel to believe. Our morals, our values, our behavior they mean nothing in terms of us being saved.

          Now, of course, we will bear fruit once we are saved, but our works and our fruit are not what save us. Good works and fruit do not equal Christian. Being pro life does not equal Christian. Being anti sin does not equal Christian. Being pro Bible does not equal Christian. Believing that a God exists does not equal Christian. Reading and memorizing Scripture does not equal Christian. Voting for a particular party does not equal Christian. Church attendance does not equal Christian.

          Trust and faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, his death, burial, resurrection. Trust and faith in his righteousness, not ours. Trust and faith in his sinlessness, not our sins. Trust and faith in his perfect obedience, not our attempts. Hearing the Word of God and keeping it. Complete and total dependence on Him and resting in his good work. That equals Christian.

 

Let’s Pray.  

            

Luke 11:27-32 Jesus is the Son of Man Believe the Words of God

Luke 11:27-32

Jesus is the Son of Man

Believe the Words of God

 

All right, turn with me, if you will, in your Bibles to Luke chapter 11. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible or need a Bible, please see me after the service and we can rectify that situation.

Last week, we saw that Jesus was addressing the crowds around him. He was casting out demons. He was teaching, as Mark says in his gospel, as one who has authority.

And we saw last week that there were three groups of people in the crowd, and those three types of people fell on two different sides of the issue. The issue, of course being, who is Jesus?

On one side, we see those who believe that Jesus is who claims to be. Simple enough. The second and third groups are on the other side, those who actively don’t believe, and those who are not able or willing to make a choice, those who were looking for signs and more evidence.

And as we learned, what you look for, you will find, whether its true or not. There is no neutrality. You either believe or you don’t. You either follow Christ or you don’t. You hear and you see the truth, or you don’t.

As we continue on this morning, Jesus continues to address the same crowd, the same three groups that we looked at last week. SO, lets go ahead and read this week’s passage, Luke chapter 11, verses 27 through 32.

I encourage you to follow along in your Bible, with your preferred translation. I will be reading from the English Standard Version. Luke 11:27-32:

 

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

 

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

So again, we see this is Jesus continuing to address the same crowd, the same people as we looked at last week. It was the same instances, the same timing, everything.

And as he was saying these things…The things he just said, there is no neutrality. That he is stronger than Satan. That he works through and with the power of God. These things he was telling the crowd.

And then this lady in the crowd, she shows whose side she is one. She shows where her loyalties lie. She is Team Jesus. She yells out that he is so great that his mom is blessed. Blessed is she who took care of you, who birthed you, who nursed you, who raised you, she must be amazing!

This is where a part of the basis for the Catholic prayer, Hail Mary comes from. This is where a part of the idolizing of Mary comes from in the Catholic teaching comes from.

Now, it is wrong to worship Mary. She is blessed, yes, but she is a human woman, a sinner like we all are. And during the Protestant Reformation, this was one of the things that really was protested against, was idolizing and worshipping people other than Jesus, saints, Mary and the like. But we can sometimes go to far in the rejection of this looking up to Mary.

Jesus here does not disagree with this woman. He does not correct her. Instead, he shows what is greater than he. In essence, he says, yes, she is blessed, but there are some who are more blessed.

Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Thank you to Cindy and Jean for putting that exact verse on our reader board down at the road. So, Mary was blessed, but Jesus shows us why she was blessed. Those who believe in Christ, those who are saved by faith, including Mary, are even more blessed than one who gave birth to him. Jesus says elsewhere, if you love me, you will keep my commands.

 

Now, here is where we need to talk about the law, about keeping his commands. The covenant that God made with Adam was keep the rule I gave you and you will have eternal life. Romans 5 is one example where we see that Adam was not only a literal man, the first man, but as such, he was a covenantal head of humanity. The covenant God made with Adam, he made with mankind.

Keep the rules I give you and you shall live. Or put another way, disobey my rules and you shall surely die. Adam broke the covenant, and therefore we all have broken the covenant. In addition to this, we have all individually broken this covenant. In fact, the Bible tells us that not a single one of us has the ability to keep the covenant. No human being, Jesus of course being the exception, not a single individual is able to not sin.

Jesus is able to not sin, as we see in the Gospels. He is the greater Adam He has kept the covenant between God and humanity and therefore is able to redeem mankind. He succeeds where Adam failed.

Where Adam, as a representative of mankind, broke the covenant, Jesus as a greater representative of mankind, live a sinless and perfect life and therefore earned eternal life for those trust in him.

We are still not able to keep our own end of this and so, it is offered to us by the grace of God, through faith is Christ and his works, the works that earned eternal life. Not our works, but Christs works.

In that, the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds. He changes our desires and abilities. We now have some, key word SOME, ability to not sin.

 

And so, through Christ, we have a New Covenant. Now we are commanded not to obey, and we will live. Instead, we are commanded to live in Christ and then obey.

If you have a chance, read all of Galatians 3. This is a great section by Paul laying out the whole thing of salvation by works or by faith and relationship between Jesus and the law. It finishes up verses 25-29:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

 

The New Covenant, the greater covenant is here. Jesus is the greater Adam. Jesus initiated the new covenant, and we are partakers of it through faith. WE have faith in what Jesus did and who he is. He initiated the covenant through his sinless life, through his death, his burial and his resurrection. Through his blood shed and through his work on the cross. When we are brought into this covenant, we are given everlasting life. We are given the forgiveness of sins. We are given eternal communion with God.

That sounds simple enough, right? Trust and obey. Believe and live. Except that our inherent human nature is corrupted since the Fall in Genesis 3. We don’t want God’s grace. We don’t want his forgiveness.

We want to think we can do it all on our own. We want to think that we can earn Gods favor and forgiveness. WE think that we are not bad enough to warrant any discipline or punishment from God. We think that, at least we are better than those around us and that has to count for something.

And so, we are disinclined to believer the Word of God, even when it becomes flesh and appears here on Earth. Jesus is the Word made flesh and many disbelieved and many more continued to seek for signs.

Despite the fact that Jesus had been giving them signs throughout his ministry, including one they just witnessed. Jesus says that he will give one sign to mankind, the sign of Jonah. Jonah spent three days in the belly of a fish, only to reemerge, by the power and sovereignty of God, and preach salvation and repentance to sinners. Jesus would end up spending three days in the tomb, only to reemerge, by the power and sovereignty of God, to achieve salvation and call sinners to repent.

Jesus is the greater Jonah. As much as the Ninevites repented at Jonah’s preaching, which we read about in this morning’s Scripture Reading, how much should we repent at the preaching and signs that Jesus shared.

Jesus tells us about Jonah and then he tells us about Queen Sheba. She travelled, basically, the entire known world in order to hear the wisdom of King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man in the world. She travelled to seek the wisdom that we have at our fingertips in our Bibles.

And we know that Jesus is the greater Solomon. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30:  you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, Jesus is wisdom. If Sheba were willing to travel so far to hear the wisdom of Solomon, how much more should we be willing to do to hear the Wisdom of God presented to us in the Bible? How much more passion and devotion should we show in our pursuit of Godly wisdom?

Jesus here is not comparing himself to Jonah or to Solomon, but instead is arguing from the lesser to the greater. He is the greater. He is stronger than Satan as we saw last week. He is the greater Jonah, taking the miraculous things that happened to him and amplifying them. He is the greater Solomon, wiser than the wisest man, Wisdom personified.

Think about whoever you look up to. Think about whoever is influential in your lives. Think about who you listen to. Think about who you read. Think about who you let speak into your life.

Jesus is greater. How much more should he influence you, speak into your life. How much more should we listen to and read Jesus? He is the greater everything. Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

 

Ultimately, our judgement at the end will be based on What did we do with the truth when we were presented with it. We have been given all the information needed, all the signs that we could want. And yet, so many of us keep asking for more signs, more evidence, more proof.

One commentator points out, “The fact is, that the people who demanded another sign would not have been convinced by it or by any number of signs. Their seeking of a sign was not an indication of their willingness to believe if only adequate evidence was provided, but a rationalizing of their unwillingness to believe the perfectly adequate evidence they already had.”

God has given us all the evidence, al the signs we would need. He has told us to believe, and we will live. What are we doing with the truth that has been laid in our hands?

Remember that its not just knowing what the Bible says. Its not just memorizing verses. It’s not only about head knowledge, though that is important. But what we do with that knowledge, that’s the most important part. DO we turn that intellectual knowledge into a saving faith?

God draws us to him, opens our eyes to the truth he has presented. We then believe and repent. WE believe and we show our love for him by keeping his commands. Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep them.

 

Let’s Pray

Luke 11:14-26 Jesus is the Son of Man Jesus is the Strongest Man

Luke 11:14-26

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus is the Strongest Man

 

All right! Let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11.

 

We are continuing our series, our journey through the Gospel of Luke. And in this Gospel, Jesus is continuing his travels, making his way towards Jerusalem. His followers, his disciples are travelling with him and being taught by Jesus, being trained by him, mentored in order to continue after Jesus leaves to preach the Kingdom of Heaven is here, it is at hand.

Jesus has been teaching and showing his disciples the two greatest commands; Love God and Love your Neighbor. He has shown them things that can pull them away from loving God; among which include distractedness, anxiety and troubledness over many things.

When this happens, we can often let our preconceived notions about, people, about God, about the Bible, we can let them take over and further get in the way. These preconceived notions can further separate and divide us from God and from those around us.

Jesus is going to deal with some people who have entrenched themselves in their preconceived notions in the passage we look at this morning. It is going to cause these people to ignore all indications of the truth, no matter how clearly it is presented to them.

So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke 11, verses 14 through 26. I encourage you all to grab your Bibles and follow along, whatever your preferred translation. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version.

Luke 11:14-26:

 

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

 

 

May God Bless the reading of his word…

 

So, Jesus is casting out demon, doing what he does. And in this instance, he was casting out a mute demon. This is not meaning that the demon itself could not speak, but that it caused the person it was tormenting to not be able to speak. I think its quite curious that this story about a man not being able to speak because of a demon comes right after the passage about praying and lifting our voices up to God.

 

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence…

 

Anyway, so this mute man was delivered from this demon, and he spoke. What a feeling this must have been! What emotions this guy must have had! The scriptures don’t say how long he was mute, whether from birth or not, but we know it was long enough that he was known as the mute guy. He was known not to be able to speak. And so, when he spoke and the crowd heard it, there were amazed! People marveled.

And this reaction from the crowd, this astonishment from the mute man, this bona fide miracle that all acknowledged, this is the first step in the point of why Jesus did these types of miracles. Yes, of course, there was the compassion. Jesus had a heart for those who were suffering. He had a heart for those who needed healing.

But the main reason he did the miracles and the healings and the signs and wonders that he did was to testify to his message. It was to testify to his deity. And his message was the kingdom of heaven and salvation from sin. The miracles and healings were down to show that he had the authority to make the claims he was making and the power to back them up.

 

The people saw the miracles, the healings, the casting out of demons, and they were astonished. They marveled! And then they gave credit to Satan.

 

Some attributed his power and abilities to Beelzebub. This was a name referencing the Canaanite god, Baal from the Old Testament and was often a stand in for Satan himself as well.

So, the crowd saw what Jesus was doing, casting out a demon, and they decided that, instead of seeing that this was through the Power of God, they decided that Jesus was getting his powers and abilities from Satan himself.

Isaiah 5:20 could be written about these people in the crowd, as it is written,

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!

 

To see the good being done and to attribute that good to the devil instead of to God, woe, woe to them.

 

WE see another group in the crowd though too. Luke tells us that some in the crowd kept seeking signs to test him. They weren’t willing to give credit of what Jesus was doing to Satan, but neither were they ready to give the credit to God. They were the definition of neutrality that we see towards the end of this passage.

This group reminds me of an episode of MASH that I saw recently. One of the injured soldiers came in and thought he was Jesus Christ. The medics of course don’t believe him and try to get him to tell them who he really is.

He says, “What can I do to convince you?”

Their response, “Well, a miracle would be a good start…”

 

Except that even if the guy really had been Jesus, and if he had been able to do a miracle for them, they still wouldn’t believe. Jesus says this very thing of in Johns Gospel, paraphrasing here, but basically, you are not believing my words, you are not believing my signs and you are not believing what Moses said about me so long ago. You are looking for reasons and finding them to not believe.

 

Jesus of course knew the hearts and the minds and the words of all those in the crowd. And he told them, “Y’all are making no sense whatsoever…”

Why would you fight against yourself? IT makes no tactical sense. Its stupid to fight against yourself. And Satan is many things, but stupid is not one of them.

Satan is smart. He provides and communicates just enough truth wrapped up in his lies. Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 that he can lead astray even the elect. He has power, limited by God, created by God, but he does have some power to do some signs and wonders. To a point. That’s important.

Because the signs and wonders, the power that he posses and shows are not true, against the laws of nature miracles. He can only do so much. We see the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, back in Exodus 7 as an example.

Moses came in proclaiming the name of God, telling Pharoah to let the Israelites go. TO back up his claims and to show the power of God, Moses did signs and wonders. The first couple the magicians in Pharaoh’s court were able to mimic, as if they had the same power that Moses had received from God. But Gods power overwhelmed and defeated the power of the magicians and showed that any signs and wonders done in the power pf Satan are pale imitations of the true miraculous work of God.

 

Jesus then turns to the people and says, “Oh by the way, some of your own people are casting out demons as well. If I’m doing it through the devil, who are they doing it through?”

 

Jesus said, it is by the power of God that I do the things that I do. It is to confirm my words to you that the kingdom of God is here. Most of the pharisees did not believe where Jesus got his power and authority from. Though one did. IN John 3 we see Nicodemus, a pharisee, come to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus says to Jesus in verse 1, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.

Nicodemus was able to set aside his preconceived notions and see what was really in front of him. Many in this crowd were not. The people of that day, like ours, had their own ideas of who God was and who Jesus was. Some of it was a misunderstanding of scripture. Some of it was just purely made up in their own minds. Whichever was the case, they were blinded to the truth.

They were attributing the good works of Jesus to a pagan god, to Satan, instead of to the true God. Because they were unwilling to see the good in Jesus. Because they were unwilling to believe that God would work in this way that they were not expecting.

 

This view of God, that he is Love and he wouldn’t let bad things happen. He wouldn’t punish people for messing up. He allows many paths to himself. Sin is not a big deal and there is no judgment or hell.

This view of the Bible, that it is just a book, not the inspired Word of God. That it’s a book of morals, teachings and life lessons, but holds no authority.

This view that Jesus is not God, or that he is not man. That he was not sinless. That he never died, or that he never rose from the dead. That he never spoke on numerous subjects that the Bible is crystal clear on. That he is not the Word incarnate, that he is not the Alpha and Omega, and that he is not the one who will come to judge.

These preconceived notions are what we need to overcome in order to see the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what he has said. Those things that we are born with, and we naturally hold in ourselves. In our hearts and in our minds. We all have them, and the first key is to recognize them. Because when we see Jesus at work, when we read the Bible, we will read it through the lenses of our preconceived notions.

What you look for, you will find. This is true throughout life but is especially true with the Bible. IF you decide you believe one way about a subject, then you will find validation for it in the Bible.

It could be your view on a specific sin. It could be looking for which political party you want to vote for. It could be any theological issue. What you are looking for, you will find. It doesn’t mean its right, but you will find it. That’s how our hearts and minds work. So, we need the God to raise the cover from our eyes. We need the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. We need Jesus to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. Without them, we are slaves to our preconceived notions.

 

 

Jesus then gives, kind if a parable to the crowd. We see the strong man in his home or fortress. Satan is the strong man in this example. He is the god of this world (little g). God has allowed him to have some power and some authority here for a certain amount of time.

Jesus comes into the earth as the stronger man. He destroys the strong mans kingdom and takes over as the authority in that house. We know from scripture that Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death with his death, burial and resurrection.

Paul writes in Colossians 2:13-15:

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

 

              Its not just that Jesus defeats him in a battle that they just get into, but Jesus is defeating Satan in order to win our souls. He is defeating Satan so that we may be freed from our sins by our faith in Jesus Christ.

RC Sproul writes that yes, we do have to respect and acknowledge the power that Satan has and holds in this world, but not overly so. Jesus already won. He has already shown he is the strongest man. He has already removed Satan’s attempt at a kingdom with the Kingdom of God. Its already finished and The Kingdom of God has already been established.

 

Jesus makes it clear in verse 23, there is no neutrality. You are with Jesus, or you are not. You are a citizen of the kingdom of God, or you are not. There is no dual citizenship. The scriptures make it clear that you cannot serve two masters. You are a follower of Christ or an enemy of Christ. And nothing, not your works, not your attendance, not your knowledge determines which side you are on, only the grace of God giving us faith in Christ.

 

And he who does not gather, scatters. Those who are not a part of the body of Christ, will work at dividing the body of Christ. They will create division and sow disunity among the family of God.

 

We finish this passage in verses 24-26, where Jesus shows us that we cannot do it on our own. The example that Jesus gives here, an unclean spirit, for whatever reasons, boredom, finished job, or exorcism, prayer, sheer will, leaves a body, it goes looking for a new one. But without the Holy Spirit occupying the original host, the unclean spirit just comes right back and is even stronger and does more damage.

That’s not a problem we can solve with good old American ingenuity. We can’t pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. We can’t clean up our life by sheer force of will. We need Jesus.

Jesus gives us this example using an unclean spirit, but I see it working practically in our day to day lives if we think about our habitual sins. Some are easy to leave behind when we become new creations in Christ. But others continue to pick at us, nag us, tempt us, sometimes feeling like they own us.

We can make a little bit of outer progress on our own. There are people who change, who quit addictions, we stop cheating, we change quite a bit about their lives and their behavior without turning to Christ. But if they do, they often replace one sin for another, one addiction for another and none of it helps our souls, our hearts or our eternal destination.

That’s all Jesus. He offers salvation. He offers forgiveness of sins. HE is the only way to change who we are deep down inside. The salvation and forgiveness come instantly. But he also changes our heart and our desires. Though not all those desires change instantly. Some happen over time. Some never completely change until we are face to face with God himself.

I had someone make, what I think was a brilliant point to me this week. While we are here on earth, those temptations will not be permanently eliminated completely. But as we dive into Gods Word, and our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be more equipped to deal with those temptations. The temptations might even grow stronger as we grow in Christ. The spiritual sure get fiercer, but our equippedness will also grow stronger, therefore our ability to resist that temptation will grow stronger. And of course, we say our, as if we are the ones doing, but knowing that all the ability, equipment, desire and strength comes directly from the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, we are one in Christ. Christ and his work on the cross are what unites us. His work changes us. His work defeated Satan.  And today we are going to come to the LORDs table, we are going to celebrate communion, celebrate our unity. We are going to this with partaking of bread and juice symbolizing his body and blood and with reflection.

Now, I ask that if you are not a Christian, if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, please just pass the elements along. There is nothing magical about it. There is nothing special about it for those who do not believe that Jesus Christ gave his broken body and his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. There will be no pressure and no judgment.

stemming from that, Communion does not save us, it does not cleanse us, it does not do anything along those lines. It has no power to keep us clean or to restore our relationship with God, only Jesus can do that. This was given to us by Jesus for the purpose of remembering. Remembering who Jesus was. Remembering what Jesus did for us. Remembering how much he loved us and remembering just how big of a deal our sin really is. It is meant to be sobering and somber, but at the same time it is meant to be a celebration.

Thirdly, we are told that we need to come and participate with the right heart. As I said, we do this in remembrance of what he gave up for us, the sacrifice he made. We do this because we remember how big of a deal our sin is, that he died on the cross for it. We need to make sure that our hearts and minds have their hearts set on what’s important and that we seek God’s forgiveness and make our relationships are right with him. In addition to a tradition becoming too important and placed above the word of God, tradition can become bad is by it losing its meaning and becoming simply a ritual. Please take some of this time to reflect on what this tradition means and to make sure that you are prepared to receive. There will never be any judgment if you choose not to participate, and just pass the plate.

Paul recounts to the church in Corinth what I now tell you as well, in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26:

 

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[f] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

          We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.