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:
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.
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.
Teach them to obey all that Christ commanded.
Speak the Truth in Love
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.”
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.9 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 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.
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 regardingan 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.
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]2 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.7 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.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 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.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 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! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[b] And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9 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: Repentandbebaptized, everyoneofyou, inthenameofJesusChristfortheforgivenessofyoursins. AndyouwillreceivethegiftoftheHolySpirit.
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,9 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?
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.”