Luke 19:1-10 Jesus is the Son of Man Repentance is more than saying I’m sorry

Luke 19:1-10
Jesus is the Son of Man
Repentance is more than saying I’m sorry

Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Luke chapter 19.
So, we took a brief break from Luke’s Gospel last week as we looked to Marks Gospel to see how the same stories in the Gospel are told and what some of the different angles and emphases are.
That story we looked at two weeks in a row was the story of the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus on the Road outside of Jericho. And this is important because of what Jericho signifies in the narrative of Jesus earthly life and ministry. Jericho is where travelers would stage and prepare for the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem.
And Jesus and his follower, especially the Twelve, were heading to Jerusalem. They were going for two reasons. The immediate reason is the same as why Jerusalem was so overcrowded at that moment. The Passover was coming up. This yearly celebration was one where Jews from all over Israel come to Jerusalem. So, Jerusalem was overcrowded, and by extension, beforehand, so was Jericho.
The second reason they were going to Jerusalem was because Jesus knew that’s where he needed to go to fulfill his mission. He came, as we are going to see today, to seek and save the lost. He came to restore our relationship with God the Father. He was the long prophesied and promised messiah, the Christ. And that meant, as he has told the disciples numerous times, that he needed to die and be buried before he would rise again.
As Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem, he was continuing to teach, continuing to heal, continuing to call sinners to repentance, and continuing to turn peoples’ assumptions and expectations upside down.
So, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 19, verses 1 through 10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage to follow along in your translation.
Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, records:

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Thus says the Word of God.

Now, one of the things we saw, especially the last two weeks, is that Jesus was known far and wide within Israel. People knew who he was. They had heard stories about what he had done, and what he was claiming. The Blind Beggar outside Jericho, likely never having travelled anywhere, knew who Jesus of Nazareth was and knew that He was the Son of David, the Messiah.
And we see that a man named Zacchaeus in Jericho, he knew who Jesus was too. People knew Jesus was passing through. They wanted to see him, they wanted to encounter him, hear him if there was any teaching that was going to happen. And Zacchaeus did too.
Now, Zacchaeus was not a beloved person. He was a tax collector. We have talked about the tax collectors before. Rome was a massive juggernaut at the time, the rulers of the known world. Their empire and their military took money to keep running smoothly and to keep the peace in their occupied territories. So, they hired locals to collect taxes for them. In that regard, especially among the Jewish people, tax collectors were looked at as traitors, working for the enemy against their own people.
On top of that, tax collectors “earned” their income by collecting above and beyond what Rome was ordering to be collected. They go to keep the additional amount. Now, Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. This is the only time we see this title in the Bible so what we know are all educated guesses. It appears that he would be a regional manager type. He would have likely been skimming from the amount the tax collectors brought in, of course, making sure that Rome got their cut and that He got his cut. I believe that the regional breakdowns wouldn’t work, but it is possible that Zacchaeus would have been Matthew’s boss, known then as Levi before Jesus called Him. Or at least Matthew would have worked for a Zacchaeus type.
No body would have liked Zacchaeus. And maybe that’s why he was having trouble getting a spot along the road to see Jesus as he and his disciples are passing by. He wasn’t the only one of course, the crowds were thick. Jericho was overfilled and many people wanted to see Jesus. And so, Zacchaeus couldn’t push through the crowd to get a view. It didn’t help that Zacchaeus was a wee little man either. He couldn’t see over the crowd.
So, Zacchaeus did what any normal person would do, he ran ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus. That is how driven, how desperate he was to see Jesus.
Something was compelling him. GO, see this Jesus guy. See what He is all about. Do it now because there might not be another chance, and there wouldn’t.
The Holy Spirit was telling Zacchaeus that the time is now. This is what’s known Effectual Calling, maybe better known, Irresistible Grace, the I in TULIP, which is an acronym for 5 tenets of Reformed theology.
One source describes it this way:
Irresistible grace” is a phrase that is used to summarize what the Bible teaches about the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of sinners. Simply put, the doctrine of irresistible grace refers to the biblical truth that whatever God decrees to happen will inevitably come to pass, even in the salvation of individuals. The Holy Spirit will work in the lives of the elect so that they inevitably will come to faith in Christ. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation those sinners whom He personally calls to Christ

I don’t think there is any way to deny that this is what is going on in Zacchaeus at this point in time. Famed theologian Matthew Henry says: Jesus brings his own welcome. He opens the heart and inclines it to receive him.

So, the Holy Spirit is drawing Zacchaeus to Christ. He compels him to go and see him while Jesus is in Jericho. And the only way that he can see Jesus is by climbing a sycamore tree. These trees are known to be very tall, but with very low limbs, great for climbing. They are also very full, which would make it very hard to be seen if you were in the tree.
And yet, Jesus “just happens,” to look up and see Zacchaeus up in the tree. What a coincidence! We know that coincidences are God working behind the scenes. Things like this. Luck, coincidence, Gods invisible providence, all at work to bring a sinner to Himself.
Jesus happens to pass by under the tree, happens to look up, happens to see Zacchaeus, and happens to know his name. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
TO me, I hear him saying, C’mon on down here Zacchaeus. I can’t talk to you up there! We are going to your place now.

This was an incredibly joyful moments for Zacchaeus. Not all conversions are instantaneous, clouds open up, angels singing style conversions. Some are and praise God for them. But not all are. Some are subtle and gradual, a process that takes time. I believe this is the case for Zacchaeus and sometime in here, sometime during this story is when the gradual process came to its fulfillment. There is no way of knowing when, but we do know that he received Jesus joyfully.
Notice too, along with what we said earlier. Zacchaeus didn’t invite Jesus over. He didn’t do anything to earn Jesus’ attention. All Zacchaeus did was receive Jesus joyfully. And even that, the Holy Spirit had already done everything He had to do inside of Zacchaeus in order to prepare him so that He could receive Jesus. Even Zacchaeus receiving Jesus was not because of Zacchaeus.
Now, not everyone was happy that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully. First of all, Jesus, why would you be caught spending time with that guy. Don’t you know who he is? Don’t you know what he has done. No body wants to spend time with him. Your reputation will be ruined by spending time with him!
Also, Zacchaeus is too much of a sinner to be saved. He’s not worthy of grace, of forgiveness and of recognition. How could he ever be saved?
And that’s the good news, isn’t it? Not that salvation exists. That would be great news if we were worthy of it, if we could earn it, if we in any way deserved it. But we aren’t, we can’t, and we don’t. So, salvation in and of itself is not good news.
But that Jesus came to offer and grant salvation, more accurately to procure salvation for those who could not do so on their own. Not only couldn’t do it on their own but could have no part in it whatsoever. In other words, you, me, and everyone else who believes. Its good news because he procures it for us who can’t do it ourselves. Like Zacchaeus.
That’s the good news. We can’t earn it. We can’t do anything, be good enough. Our works are like filthy rags to him. But we see the other side here.
Zacchaeus was saved. He was forgiven. He received Gods grace. His heart of stone was change by the Holy Spirit into a Heart of flesh. And now, he is showing outwardly what that change looks like.
Zacchaeus was convicted of his sins. He was able to see how grievous they were. His greed, his extortion, his manipulation, his bullying and so much more. He wanted to change, and he wanted to make it right.
But it’s not just as easy as realizing that what you did was wrong and saying your sorry. That’s the minimum and sometimes that’s all you are able to do for a variety of possible reasons.
But Zacchaeus was able to do more. And he wanted to do more. He wasn’t trying to buy forgiveness of those whom he wronged. He wanted to make it right. He was convicted of sin, so he stood and publicly confessed and made it right.
Through faith comes repentance.
Now, this is not an exact formula for all of us on how to repent. Zacchaeus made his wealth and his money by stealing, defrauding, extorting and bullying. And now, to show that money and possessions and wealth are no longer his gods, no longer his purpose, this is what he was to do.
His formula was to, first, give half of his wealth away to the poor and needy. Second, anyone he defrauded; he was going to pay them back four times what he took. This was going above and beyond what the Torah commanded of the Jewish people.
Our formula for repentance and restitution is, first, to be open handed in our generosity. We confess our sins, not only to God, but to the people we sinned against. We are to ask forgiveness, but also, we are to go beyond that, and we are to attempt to make things right, to make restitution and, if possible, to reconcile those relationships.
In verse 9, Jesus makes a joyous proclamation. We shouldn’t need to parse this too deep or try to find the nuances of the statement. Jesus says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus house, and he is a Son of Abraham. What grace! What joy!
What Jesus is not saying is that because of what Zacchaeus did, because he repented, because he gave away a bunch of money and possessions, because of those things, now he is saved.
But that, of course is wrong. That’s earning or buying salvation. Trying to be good enough. That’s work based salvation. And, Ill say this also, if that were the case, it would fit right in with what others were thinking, that Zacchaeus was unworthy if salvation, that he wasn’t worth saving.
Instead, Jesus is proclaiming that the repentance that Zacchaeus was showing was genuine. The repentance and actions being taken are genuine signs of salvation and the fruit of the Spirit show that he is a new creation.
Jesus also show that these things show that Zacchaeus is a true Son of Abraham. In this, with his salvation, he is adopted into the family of God and is now a part of True Israel. Paul wrote sin Galatians 3, And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
And Jesus tells us why he came. To seek and save the lost. To reconcile us to God. To make us children of God, co heirs with Christ.
Our natural born state is lost, and it is spiritually and eternally dead. We can’t and we won’t seek God, not the true, biblical God.
So, instead, because of his eternal love, he seeks us.
He saves us.
He calls us.
He helps us find our way.
He gives us the gift of faith.
He leads us to repentance.
He grants forgiveness and salvation.
He gives us eternal life.

We see often in the Gospels two stories put right next to each other in order for us to get the bigger picture. Before Zacchaeus we see the blind beggar and a main point was that he called out to Jesus. Here, Zacchaeus receives Jesus joyfully. Both true. Both accurate. Both showing a change in their lives in literally and spiritually following Jesus. Bartimaeus jumped up and literally followed Jesus, he probably saw all this play out. And Zacchaeus show publicly the change that occurs inside when we joyfully receive Jesus.
IF you have not called out to Jesus or joyfully received him, that’s step one, don’t get the steps out of order. IF you have, its time to show the world the joy and change in us that Jesus creates, asking forgiveness, making restitution, reconciling and following Jesus, both literally and spiritually.
Let’s Pray.

Luke 18: 31-34 Easter 2022 Jesus Died and Rose Again

Luke 18: 31-34

Easter 2022

Jesus Died and Rose Again

          All right! Please turn with me in your Bibles to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18.

IT is very interesting indeed, if you pay attention, to see how the Holy Spirit directs and guides things. For those that may not know, our philosophy here is that we preach through entire books of the Bible. We pick a book, we start at chapter 1, verse 1, and we go through and look at every verse in the book, preaching line by line, keeping the verses in context, looking at the big picture, seeing the intended and purposefully included themes, patterns, lessons and so on that God included in the natural story of the Bible. This is called expository preaching.

Now, there are legitimate times and places to stray from that formula, where you have a point, or an event, or a lesson that you want to preach, and you find the text in the Bible that teaches that, and you preach on that specific passage. That’s called Topical preaching. As I said, there are times where topical sermons are right and appropriate. Christmas and Easter are the two most obvious and easy to see examples.

But sometimes the Holy Spirit lines things up just right. He will at times eliminate the need to pause our series. He makes it so that we naturally come to a text where Jesus once again tells the Apostles about his upcoming death as we come up on Easter Sunday.

Now, a real quick catch up on where we are and have been in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus has been teaching the masses, the Pharisees and the disciples, especially the 12 Apostles. And especially over the last few chapters, he has been teaching them that their expectations and their assumptions are going to be completely flipped on their heads.

He essentially tells them, you might know that justice and righteousness are good, but you do not know what true justice, and real righteousness are. You might know that the kingdom of God is coming, but you have no idea how its coming or when or what it will look like.

Last week we saw the rich young ruler, and we saw that you might know that you need to inherit the kingdom, but you still think you need to earn that inheritance.

And as we come up on the words of Jesus this week, we are reminded what Jesus is telling Israel often, that they might know that the Messiah is coming, but your expectations and assumptions of him, what he will be, what he will do, and what he will accomplish are all dead wrong.

And so, with that, lets go ahead and read this morning’s text. We are looking at Luke chapter 18, verses 31 through 34. I will be reading, as I always do, out of the English Standard Version. I encourage, as always, to follow along in the version you prefer, as we will all be reading along with the Word of God himself.

Luke 18:31-34, Luke writes, inspired by the Holy Spirit:

 

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

 

May God Bless the Reading of Gods Holy Word.

 

What’s going in this passage is both simple and complex. Jesus takes the twelve aside, the 12 disciples that were the most committed and the closest to Jesus. These are the twelve who would become known as the Apostles and who would go on to build the early church after Christs ascension.

He takes them aside and reminds them that they are headed to Jerusalem. This journey to Jerusalem actually started back in Luke 9:51. And he tells them this again, because we see at the end of the passage, that the disciples are not immune to making their own assumptions and holding on to them as if they are absolute facts.

Jesus tells them that everything that was written about the Son of Man, everything that was written about the coming Messiah, all of the prophecies and the foreshadowing and the allusions that were written by the scribes and prophets, all of it will be fulfilled and accomplished.

IT started back in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve sinned, and God spoke to them, telling them the consequences of their sins. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to tell them that he is going to send someone who will crush Satan and redeem his people.

There were all sorts of prophecies throughout the scriptures pointing to who the coming Messiah would be and how He would come. Micah says that he would be born in Bethlehem. Isaiah says that he would born of a virgin. And so many more. He would go to Egypt. He would be raised in Nazareth. He would be of the line of Judah. He would be a king as a descendant of David. So on and so forth.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem in order to prove that he was who he said he was. In verses 32 & 33, he says that he will be mocked, we will see in Matthew 27. He will be shamed and spit on, Mark 14 & 15. He will be flogged and beaten before being literally, physically killed. And he wasn’t dead like his heart stopped and was legally dead for a period of time and then brought back. He wasn’t in a coma or knocked out. He was dead. His body ceased to live.

Once he died, they buried him in a rich man’s tomb. On the third day he rose from the dead, was physically, literally brought back to life by God. All these things were prophesied. All these things were written about hundreds or thousands of years before they happened. And Jesus said they were on their way to Jerusalem to fulfill them.

On the surface, that sounds pretty clear, right? Not a lot of room for nuance and confusion. And yet, the scriptures say that the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Now, I think they had to understand the actual meaning of the words coming out of his mouth.  But it had it be in that kind of, “Jesus, I hear that you are saying your going to die, but…”

It’s like when Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ and Jesus told them then that he was going to die. Peter said he would not let that happen, and Jesus called him Satan for trying to get in the way of his and God the Fathers plans.

The problem was that the disciples never really believed some very important facts about the Messiah, about Jesus himself. The promised Messiah, who was to defeat and crush Satan, He was to die? How could that be the Messiah? How could that be Gods Plan? What would that accomplish?

 

But he did have to. It was a part of Gods plan from the beginning. God, The Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, all knew before the creation of time, before they created the world, before mans creation that the only way to redeem mankind, to save Gods people was for the Son to die.

And it was written by the prophets. On the Road to Emmaus, on Luke 24, Jesus talked to a few disciples and starting with Moses and the prophets, told them how all that was written was about him and that he had fulfilled every detail with meticulous fullness, as RC Sproul says.

And, of course, the why matters. This is not just some guy who was brought back to life. That, in and of itself, would be amazing. But if that’s all this was, why worship Jesus instead of Lazarus, as we saw in John 11? Why not both?

And one of the most powerful, poignant and clear prophecies about the coming messiah was one that most in that day didn’t even think applied to the coming messiah, but they thought was about the nation of Israel.

Mike read the first part of Isaiah 53 earlier and I want to read the whole chapter now:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected[
b] by men,
a man of sorrows[
c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[
f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;[
g]
when his soul makes[
h] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[
j]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[
k]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

 

So why did Jesus die and rise from the dead?

God created the world perfect, he created it at peace, in harmony. The Hebrew word is Shalom. But it didn’t last that way. Less than two chapters later, in Genesis 3, the enemy, the serpent, Satan, tricked Adam and Eve by twisting Gods word. They sinned. They had been walking, living, working in perfect relationship with God up until that point. Up until that point, it was exactly the way God wanted it.

Now, after sin entered the world, our relationship with God was fractured. God is a holy, perfect God. God could not be in relationship with sin. God cannot look at sin. When sin entered the human race, God could not be in the same relationship with us any longer unless something changed. They were no longer able to live forever, but now that sin had come in and corrupted our bodies, they, WE, would die. The first part of Romans 6:23 sums it up the easiest and most succinctly, “The wages of sin is death.”          

          God required that blood be shed in order for forgiveness of sins. So, starting with the Passover, and the blood of the lamb over the doorways of the Israelites, then when he gave the law to Moses in the desert as the Israelites were going to the promised land, God instituted a sacrificial system. This meant that the Jews could make an animal blood sacrifice to temporarily cover up their sins in the eyes of God. They needed to come back time and time again to make these sacrifices, to continually cover up their sin in Gods eyes.

God knew that this was temporary and after Adam and Eve sinned, he promised a permanent solution in the future. What could be a permanent fix for sin that also allows God to stay Holy, just and merciful? For the permanent erasure of our sins, it would require a perfect man, one who had no sin of his own. He would need to be willing to shed his blood to cover up all of our sins.

But none of us is perfect. We all fall short of the glory of God, as Romans 3:23 says. None of our “goodness” is enough to counteract the sin in our lives. Martin Luther said, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man is that somehow he can make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God.”

We cannot reestablish our relationship with God on our own, by ourselves, because of anything about us. That’s the Bad News. God gave us Good News. We wouldn’t have to. He would send one who would take care of it for us. Talk to any practicing Jewish person and they will tell you that the entirety of their scriptures is God promising to send them a Messiah, one who would free them, rule over them and allow them to be back in right relationship with the one true God. The full text of Romans 6:23 reads:  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so, Jesus lived a perfect life, and died for our sins. He paid the price we owed, that we couldn’t pay. He paid our debt so that we could be forgiven, covered in his blood.

And then God rose Him from the dead, defeating death. He proved he was God, showed that we will also be resurrected at the end when the Kingdom of God is manifested.

THE single most important day in the history of the world. The most important event in the history of the world. This is the day that is the culmination of all of the Old Testament writings, the birth of this man named Jesus, the Holy Week, the death of this man named Jesus. It all culminated on one Sunday morning almost 2000 years ago.

How important is that? I say this with all sincerity, and without hyperbole. If Jesus literally, historically, factually died on the cross and three days later rose from the grave, it is the most important thing that has ever happened on Earth.

It proves the Bible as true and trustworthy. And this is exactly what the Bible claims to be true.  It proves Jesus and the things he said as true and trustworthy. And it proves that the resurrection was the most important event in history.

 

Finally, I ask, why was all this hidden from the disciples? Why did they not grasp what was being said by Jesus here?

The disciples had certain expectations. All of Israel had very specific expectations regarding the coming Messiah. One of the hardest things in human nature is to change one’s mind. It is incredibly difficult to admit, especially to ourselves that there is a chance that we could be wrong. Our natural tendency is to reject anything that goes against what we already believe. Our natural tendency is to accept anything and everything that agrees with what we already believe.

The disciples are no different. We are no different than the disciples.

Today you have the Word of God in your hands. You have what Jesus plainly said. He is calling you to a response. He is calling you to understand. He is calling you to trust him above yourself.

Are you going to cling to your preconceived notions about God, about Heaven, about sin, about salvation and about Jesus?

Or are you going to trust God, trust his Word, trust the Bible? Are we going to trust that we are sinners in need of a savior? That Jesus came to save sinners?

 

Are we going to trust that Jesus came and offers the only way to salvation and to forgiveness by His grace alone, a gift that no one deserves, but is only given by his good will, his mercy?

And he delivers it by faith alone? We must believe, we must trust, we must depend wholly and completely on

Jesus Christ alone? He is the only one who could perfectly and completely fulfill the law and the prophecies. He had perfect righteousness, was the perfect sacrifice. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. He is the only way to God the Father.

Do we trust that this is all told by the scriptures alone? God revealed all these things so that we would believe. He also says that faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of Christ. We must hear or read the Gospel in order to believe.

And do we trust, do we believe that all of this, all that we talked about this morning, all that is written in the Bible is all for the Glory of God alone? He is the only one worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy of worship. He alone is worthy; He is the Creator of all things. He is perfectly good, perfectly holy, perfectly perfect.  He alone is worthy for all things to his glory.

Are we going to listen and believe ourselves, sinners and fallen people? Or the God who created us, the Son who died for us, who redeemed us, the Holy Spirit who transformed us and inspired the very Words of the Bible?

Today is a day of great celebration. Today is a day that changed the course of history and saved the eternal lives of, probably billions of people, of all who would believe. Shout out, celebrate, sing praises and trust and believe in him more than ourselves.

He is Risen!

 

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.

 

 

Luke 11:1-13 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus Shows Us How to Pray

Luke 11:1-13

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus Shows Us How to Pray

 

All right, lets go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11. If you do not have a Bible, or are in need of a Bible, please see me after the service and we can help with that.

So, last week we saw Jesus staying with two sisters, Mary and Martha. As he was staying there, he not only helps a teaching session with some group of people that including Mary, who sat at Jesus feet to listen to his teachings. Jesus also held a private teaching session with Martha, loving her and comforting her in her anxiety and frustration.

Jesus and his disciples continued their travelling from town to town and from village to village. Jesus was making his was way slowly but surely towards Jerusalem, where he was to fulfill his purpose. Along the way, they were preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven being here in the here and now. We have seen many signs and wonders by Jesus to confirm his deity and the truth of his claims.

As he and the disciples are travelling, Jesus is teaching the, mentoring them, preparing them for ministry after he leaves his earthly ministry. The wonderful thing for us, is that these teachings that Jesus shared with his disciples, many of them are recorded in the Gospels contain in the Bible, so we have access to them whenever we want. And this morning we see some very important and practical teachings from Jesus.

So, let’s go ahead and read this morning’s text before we dive in to the teaching. Luke chapter 11, verses 1-13. As always, Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, but please follow along in your preferred translation. Luke 11:1-13, Luke, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit records the following:

 

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Word.

 

Its always interesting to me when God and when the Gospel writers include or omit certain details. In this case, Jesus was in a certain place. Where that place was, was not important. What was important was that Jesus was praying. We have seen him does this often and it emphasizes to the disciples and to us, if Jesus needs to spend time in prayer, how much more do we?

So, Jesus is praying, and as was common for teachers and disciples of the time, Jesus followers wanted their teacher to teach them how to pray. Every teacher had their own style and method and pattern of prayer. The disciples mention John the Baptist and though we don’t see his prayers recorded in scripture, the disciples had heard of them and wanted to hear Jesus’ versions of prayer.

The disciples looked at Jesus as a number of things but included in that would have been seeing Jesus as their spiritual mentor. They wanted to model their spiritual life off of his. They wanted to be just like him. They wanted to learn from him. He had a robust spiritual prayer life, and they wanted the same.

They were saying to Him, “Lord, you were praying, you have such a good prayer life, your so good at praying, we want to have that same prayer life.”

 

And Jesus was a great example of a good mentor. When Jesus does show the disciples how to pray, he doesn’t give them a list of rigid instructions. He doesn’t say, “First, do this…Second, say this…” Instead, he gives example. He teaches the principles. He explains the whys and such.

 

And in verses 2-4, Jesus gives them a model of prayer. We see here a truncated version of the Lord’s prayer that we see in Jesus teach in Matthew 6:9-13, the version we all know and have memorized.

I think that’s the first think for us to take away form Jesus’ teachings this morning. The length of the prayer does not affect how well or how much God the Father hears our prayers. He does not hear longer prayers any more than shorter prayers. For sure, pray as long as is needed in that specific situation, but there is no need to make it longer and to fill it with fluff words to try to make it more holy.

Now, there are a number of different acronyms and lists and different descriptions out there about what is included in making a good and complete prayer. You may have heard the acronym, ACTS. An ACTS prayer would include Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (or asking). A-C-T-S.

RC Sproul listed some attributes of this and other prayers in scripture as Adoration, petition, confession and intercession. For this passage here this morning, the most common descriptions I read over and over were vertical and horizontal.

This means first, you pray vertically, upwards, towards God. Prayers are directed at someone, and who they are directed at matters. We don’t send our prayers and thoughts out to the universe. We don’t send prayers to people. We don’t pray to a God we don’t believe in or to any God that might hear it. We are praying to the Creator God of the Universe. We are praying to God the Father. We are praying to the one True God. And we need to make sure that we recognize that.

Now of course, this is not to legislate that every prayer we say has to include an out loud, personalized greeting to God. When something happens, sometimes, we just throw prayers out there. God still hears those and responds to those as well. They are no less valid prayers than the more formal prayers we are addressing here this morning.

After praying vertically, we then pray horizontally. We pray for the things, situations and people around us. First, we look up to Heaven, to God, then we look around us. Love God, love your neighbor. Pray to God, pray for your neighbor.

 

Jesus starts the prayer addressing God as Abba Father. Personal, individual Father. We who have been saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ, we have been adopted into the family of God. God also tells us that we are to approach boldly the throne of grace. God is our Father, if we are children in the faith. And he wants to make sure that we know he is approachable. He wants us to know that we can go to him. Anytime, anywhere, about anything. Jesus will talk more about God as Father coming up.

Hallowed be God’s name. God’s name should always be spoken of with reverence, with awe. He is Holy Holy Holy as Isaiah declares. And so, we are to approach God boldly, as our children approach us as parents, but also humbly.

AS we approach God, as we approach our Father, we then ask for provisions. We ask for what he has already promised us. Now God will often overdeliver on those promises. What amazing that we don’t have only manna to eat each and every day, but we have a plethora of amazing foods, flavors, spices, and so much more. These are things that God knew about and put into our world and into our lives so that we could enjoy them. His promises are for our sustenance, to get us through the days. His delivery is often so much more, for our enjoyment, for our pleasure.

Jesus shows us in this model prayer that next we thank God for what he has done for us and what he is continuing to do for us. We also thank him for those very provisions and gifts that he has and will give us.

He also reminds us that what God has done for us, specifically forgiving us our sins, we are to make sure that we do to those around us. Forgiveness, like prayer, is a tricky thing to talk about sometimes.

God, of course, models forgiveness for us. Forgive us our trespasses as we then forgive those who trespass against us. Gods’ forgiveness of us is a once and for all deal. We come to faith in Christ and all our sins, past, present and future are instantly forgiven. And that’s good because we are in constant need of forgiveness.

The forgiveness we give out (and ask from others around us) is an ongoing and continual event. We need to have a continual spirit of forgiveness, always in the present tense. Our forgiveness of others and the forgiveness we ask of others is not a once and for all thing.  It reminds me of the Martin Luther quote that a believer’s entire life is one of repentance.

Jesus gives us a parable in verses 5-8 that shows a couple of things. First, persistence works. We are imperfect friends, sinners. There are times when even if our friends are asking for something that we are expected to give them, we don’t always want to do it. It can take them asking over and over. Eventually we will get up and do it.

Persistence often works. We will see this is the parable of the persistent widow and the point is don’t stop praying. Gods’ answers don’t always come quickly.  I don’t need a show of hands, but how many of us have been praying for years if not decades for certain or specific family members, friends, whoever, for them to come to know Christ. Some of you have seen results from those prayers. But it wasn’t quick or immediate.

Now, where we have to be careful with this story from Jesus is to take the parable too far. God is not annoyed with us for asking too often, or from praying too long (unless its full of hypocritical holy sounding fluff words and the like, but that’s for a different time) The parable is not that God is the friend that needs to be pestered. Instead, the point is that in opposition to how we fail to act and give as we are supposed to, God is happy and delighted to give us good gifts and to answer our prayers.

Now, persistence does not mean repeating the exact words of the prayer over and over. It does not mean ritual. It does not mean wrote repetition. It does not mean mindless repeating of a prayer we have memorized. Jesus warns against this very clearly.

Instead, we are to not give up. We are to stay faithful and steadfast. We are to trust God that he knows what he is doing and will answer our prayers. We trust in God’s definition of good and right and remember that his answer will fit into that category.

 

 

Verses 9 & 10, Jesus says, And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

 

First thing is let’s remember the context of this passage. The context is believers praying to God their father. These often get misapplied to unbelievers.

When Jesus says Seek and you shall find, this is not referring to those outside the church who are “seeking God.” Scripture makes it clear that we don’t seek God on our own.  Romans 3:10&11, Paul writes:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.

 

I came across a great quote while reading RC Sproul’s commentary and he relayed a comment by Thomas Aquinas. Sproul wrote:

Now, it may appear to us that he’s seeking after God. Thomas Aquinas answered the question this way: “The reason we think people are seeking after God when they’re not is that they are desperately and earnestly seeking for those things that only God can give them—happiness, meaning, freedom from guilt, peace—all of these benefits that accrue to those who put their faith in Christ.”

Sproul continues: From our perspective as Christians, we say, “They’re seeking the benefits that only God can give, therefore they must be seeking after God.” Aquinas said: “No, they’re not seeking after God. They want the benefits of God without God.” That’s the dilemma.

 

People who don’t yet know God, do not seek after God. God draws us to him. Once we believe, then we pursue God and to know him as much and as closely as we can. Jonathon Edwards said that seeking after God is the central pursuit of the Christian life. Jesus tells those listening during the sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:33:  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We also see Jesus say, knock and it will be opened to you. This of course holds allusions to Revelation 3:20, where Paul tells the church at Laodicea, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me

 

These verses are often used in reference to evangelism, “Jesus is knocking in your heart, so let him in and be saved.” That’s absolutely NOT what these verses are talking about. In both these cases, Jesus is talking to people who already love him and are believers.

 

But here is what I think is important to know about these verses. The way they are written is literally Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. So, I see the purpose of these verses as two-fold. First, of course is that God will deliver and respond to our prayers, not always how we expect of course, but our prayers will be answered.

Second, the Christian life is on of action. Our salvation and forgiveness are not by our doing anything., They are solely by the grace of God. But our life after that is one that we are continually called to, maybe that’s not the right word, but we are compelled to action. Prayer, Loving God and Loving our neighbors. Learning from the Word of God. Serving in whatever capacity God has called us to and created us for.

We finish up with verses 11-14. We are imperfect sinners, even as parents. We want to give our kids good gifts, especially if they ask. But we fail and we fail often. Hebrews has a similar passage regarding our earthly fathers and how no matter how they are, God as our Father is so much better. No matter what kind of gifts we give as a father, God gives better and greater gifts. Paul writes in Romans 8:32:  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

And we see specifically one gift. The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift. God the Father desires to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him in Faith. How great the fathers love for us!

He has already given us these great gifts. Love, forgiveness, redemption, grace, eternal life and the like. He wants us to come to him. He wants us to talk to him, that’s what prayer is, talking to God. He wants us to get to know him. He wants us to trust him. He wants us to act like his children and to treat him like our father.

 

God, our Father is Holy, yet approachable. He is loving, yet just. He gives out perfect wrath, yet perfect mercy. He is our perfect Father. And the Son promises that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit.

Ill finish with Ezekiel 36:26&27:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a

Passover Sermon Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon

Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.

Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night.  This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception.  All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.

If you look at your calendars, you will see that Passover started at Sundown last night. Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.

To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.

So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.

Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,

“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”

OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.

Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.

The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.

We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)

God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.

I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.

God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.

I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.

This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.

Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.

Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.

Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.

While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.

The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.

Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.

He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.

Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.

We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.

For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.

And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.

Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?

Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.

Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…

But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.

These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.

For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.

My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.

We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?

Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.

Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

 

 

 

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.

Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.

The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.

And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.

This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.

But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

 

Let’s Pray

 

 

Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus First Disciples

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus First Disciples

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 5. As we really start to get into Jesus ministry here on earth, we get to see how people respond to him and how people today respond to him in those very same ways.

So, a brief overview of where we have been, of Jesus public ministry so far in the Gospel of Luke. We started in Nazareth where Jesus preached the Word of God, announced that he was the fulfillment of the Word and was rejected out of hand by his hometown. They wanted to kill him, and he was run out of town.

He then went down to the region around the Sea of Galilee, to the town of Capernaum. Now, they reacted exactly the opposite of how Nazareth did. They propped him up and wanted him to stay there. Jesus continued to preach the Word and seemingly because of their willingness to listen and believe, Jesus also performed many healings and cast out many demons during his time in Capernaum.

Stories about Jesus spread throughout the region and he gained many followers, people listening to his teachings and wanting to see him perform more miracles. But today is going to be the first time we see committed followers, actual disciples of Jesus the Messiah.

This morning we are going to read from Luke chapter 5, verses 1-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read along in your preferred translation, always making sure to read for your self what the Word of God says.

Luke 5:1-11, Luke based off meticulous research and firsthand eyewitness interviews and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

 

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”[a] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

 

 

Now, we see that the events of this passage take place during his time around Galilee. The lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. So, this week’s events take place during the time of the events we looked at last week. We know that it for sure takes place before v 39 when Jesus went into Simon, who was Peter’s house.

And that’s the first thing we will look at this morning. We know that each of the four Gospels are not written or put together strictly chronologically. So, we ask, why did Luke put both sections of chapter 4 before the events of chapter 5, some of which take place before some of the events of Chapter 4?”

Well, I’m glad you asked. The Gospel writes in general, and Luke here specifically will often group stories together because together, they make a point, or show a truth. It emphasizes something about Jesus that the Gospel writer, inspired by the Holy Spirit wants us to see and wants us to know.  In this case, Luke is showing the two different reactions and responses to Jesus and his teachings. One rejecting him completely and one accepting and continuing to listen to and follow his teachings.

 

Now, we see that on one occasion during his time in Capernaum, there were large crowds pushing up on Jesus. They were treating him like we see today with rock stars and celebrities. The crowds were pushing up on him like he was the Beatles or Elvis, and we know, despite John Lennon’s famous claim, that He is bigger than they are.

And they were doing so for good reasons actually. These people wanted to hear the Word of God preached by him. Scriptures says that. They were by the Sea of Galilee and pushing Jesus towards the sea.

There just happened to be two boats right by where he was being pushed up against the water. Of course, we know that nothing just happens, there is no “luckily,” God is sovereign over it all and he makes all things happen. These two boats were there for a reason. And we will see that reason.

There were two fishing boats there, they were in for the day. Fishermen would take their boats out during the night, bring them back in the morning, have breakfast and then work on whatever the boats needed, including washing and mending the nets they used. That’s what Peter and his partners were doing on the beach that morning.

Jesus commandeered Peters boat and had him push off the land into the water. Here he was able to sit, which again, was the custom when teaching in those days. The water also allowed there to be much better natural acoustics, not the last time we will see this be the case in Israel in Bible times. But remember this was a big crowd coming to listen to Jesus and he just made it so that they could all hear Him.

Now, we don’t get a report on what Jesus taught that morning. Sometimes we do because that’s the point of the passage that we are reading. This mornings passage is not about what Jesus was teaching but in the responses of people to the teachings of Jesus and therefore to Jesus himself.

So, after he was done teaching for the morning, he decides to show Simon, who was Peter, something. He tells him, go over here and put your nets out. Peter is often, if we are honest with ourselves, an example of how we all react, saying things that we all want to say, or that we all think but don’t say out loud.

What he says is that there is no reason to go put the nets down over there. They had been fishing all night and it was one of those nights where they just didn’t catch anything. Peters implication is “Jesus, your great at that preaching stuff! But now you’re encroaching on my turf. I’m the fisherman, I’m the expert here.”

And we do that often with Jesus. We come Sunday and whenever else and we give that time to him and we think we are doing such a good job. Then we get to wherever we go to, our job, our family, our school, our hobbies, whatever, and we act out “ok Jesus, I’ve got this now, I don’t need your help with this.”

But, to Peters credit, he does say, “Since you say so, Ill do it.” There is still obedience there. And he does this, in the middle of the day, when fish were known to avoid the waters where the nets might be, after being up all night on the boats, tossing the nets out, dragging them back in and being frustrated at them not catching anything, he still obeys.

And what Simon finds is that, quite simply, the LORD provides. The nets that Simon threw out there caught more fish than he could handle. It was going to break the nets. He had to call for his partners to help pull the fish in.

RC Sproul says that the record catch was a “Reward for obedience, not the result of skill or technique.” He was responding to the false idea that the fish were a result of anything that Simon did. It was a bona fide miracle from   Jesus. All Him, nothing of us. So, the second boat comes over and helps with the fish, but again, there are so many that the second boat begins to sink.

Now, notice the switch that happens with Simon at this point. Luke had been referring to him as Simon. Now he is listed as Simon Peter. This switch happens when Peter acknowledges and confess Jesus as LORD.

See when that happens, when we do that, our identity changes. We see it often in the Bible. We see it in this case with Simon, would have his name changed by Jesus to Peter.           His identity is changed, and Jesus gives name to that.

Now, we don’t have our names changed in these cases, but our identity still changes.

Our identity changes from sinner to saint.

Our identity changes from goat to sheep.

Our identity changes from child of the devil to a child of God.

Our identity changes from unrighteous to clothed in His righteousness.

Our identity changes from condemned to redeemed.

 

A prerequisite for our identity changing is what we see happen with Simon Peter. He recognizes his sinfulness. He recognizes that he is unworthy. He knows that God cannot be in the presence of sin. He was astonished at this fish miracle.

Simon Peter recognized and acknowledged who Jesus was. He was LORD. This was not just some great teacher they were listening to. He was so much more than that. He was God.

CS Lewis made a famous argument that Jesus, with all He said, had only three options. He was a Liar, making it all up to fool the people. Or he could have been a lunatic, truly believing that he was who he said he was but deluded in that belief. The last option was that he was in fact who he said he was. That he was God. That he was LORD. He was either a Liar, a Lunatic or LORD.

Simon Peter recognized which one he was. And not only he, but his partners as well. We know from Marks Gospel that Simons brother Andrew was there too and a part of this. We also see Luke specify here brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee and they have probably the best nicknames in all of the Bible, the Sons of Thunder!

Faith is often contagious. It could have stopped with Simon Peter, but all four of them responded by faith. When one person comes to faith, often more people around them will as well, sometimes friends, sometimes family, whoever.

And we see no hesitation among those who consciously recognize Jesus as God. As soon as they knew, it was time to act. It was time to follow. This also shows that there is no time to hesitate in our decision to follow Christ. Death bed conversions do happen, but if you are banking on one, then you should be worried. You can’t bank on tomorrow; you never know if you will have tomorrow. But Jesus does promise eternity. Today is the day of salvation and salvation belongs to the LORD. Don’t out it off because you may not get another chance.

Jesus makes it clear to Simon Peter what he expects from him.   He was no longer going to be catching fish, but he would now be a fisher of men. He literally says that he will catch alive men, as if to rescue them from danger. In this case from eternal danger of Hellfire and brimstone.

As Philip Ryken relates, “People often say, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for the day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ But Jesus shows us that if you teach a man to fish for men, the people he catches will live forever.”

Jesus gave them a call, a mission. He said to follow me. And they did. They dropped everything and left it all immediately. They left their businesses. They left comfort and knowledge of what tomorrow would bring. They left their livelihoods. You know I wonder if that might have had something to do with Simons mother-in-law being sick, wondering how this guy was going to take care of her daughter now that he was following this Jesus teacher guy…

Life in the church, a life of true faith is not a sectator sport. It is a life of action. It is a life of going and being fishers of men, casting our nets and letting God provide the catch. It is a life of actively pursuing God. It is a life of actively seeking to serve and obey him, of actively repenting of our sins. A life of faith is a life of action.

We see in this passage this morning the things that Jesus calls us to as disciples. He calls us to listen to his Word. He calls us t repent and grieve our sins. He calls us to tell others about Christ and who he is.
One commentator tells us about being fishers of men, writing: A fisherman never knows what he is going to catch. The catch is up to the sovereignty of God, as any fisherman can tell you.  But if a fisherman refuses to drag his net, he will never catch anything at all. The same is true in Christian evangelism. WE are called to cast a wide net by inviting our neighbors to Bible Study, bringing our friends to church, speaking to family members about spiritual things, supporting Christian broadcasting, sending out foreign missionaries, and sharing the Gospel in every way we can. This is our calling both as the church and as individual Christians.

As disciples of Christ, as disciples of Jesus, we are to show everyone we can who exactly Jesus is. He is the Messiah. He is God, the second member of the trinity. He is our savior. He is the one who died on the cross, shed his perfect blood, rose form the dead and is living and reigning right now in heaven. He is the King of Kings and the LORD of LORDs. He is the ultimate object of our love, affection and worship. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the creator of the universe.

When CS Lewis was setting out the three options, we have for our response to who Jesus claims to be, he ends it with this quote, which Ill close with us and then Ill pray. He sums up that section, writing:

You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Let’s Pray.

Luke 4:14-30 Jesus is the Son of Man: Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Luke 4:14-30

Jesus is the Son of Man

Jesus rejected in Nazareth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Luke chapter 4. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible, or need a Bible, please see me after the service so we can get one into your hands.

So far in Luke’s Gospel, we have seen Jesus preparing for his public earthly ministry. We saw him studying. We saw him being discipled. We saw him preparing.

At the end of chapter 2, we saw Jesus study and learn Gods word, listening to the rabbis and teachers in the temple. He was being taught Gods Word and submitting himself to the teaching authorities.

In the first part of chapter 3, we saw his baptism. In this, we see that he affirmed the ministry of John the Baptist. It was also a personal declaration of Jesus faith and his affirmation of who he was, or Christ is, and who God is. Lastly in that passage, we see that Jesus had an active prayer life.

Last week, in chapter 4, we see Jesus being tempted. We see him living a holy, sanctified life, what would be evidence of conversion in our lives. We see the Holy Spirit helping him resist temptation. We see more evidence of his active prayer life. We see him accurately and rightly using his knowledge of the Word of God. And we see him practicing various spiritual disciplines, fasting and the like.

All of this prepares him for his public ministry. All types of ministry, preaching, teaching, leading, serving, and so much more, all of them take at least some kind of preparation. It takes prayer, it takes knowing the Word of God, it takes living a holy and changed life. It takes these things to prepare a person to serve in the way that God has designed us for.

But one of the things that we are going to see Jesus show us here, is that, even with all the preparation in the world, even with all the Bible Knowledge, even with all that, as written in 1 Corinthians 13, if we have all knowledge, but have not love, we are nothing.

And so that brings us to out text for the evening, Luke chapter 4, verses 14 through 30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your preferred translation and follow along in the text, reading for yourself what Gods Word says. Luke 4:14-30, Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

 

 

Thus, ends the reading of Gods Holy Word.

 

We start with Jesus travelling once again. He went to the Jordan, for his baptism, he went out into the wilderness and now he is back from the Galilee region. He went back home. Home to Nazareth. But before he went home, we see that he had already done some stuff. His ministry had already started. There were reports coming in, even to Nazareth about some of the stuff that Jesus had been doing.

Its interesting. The Gospels, all four of them. They are not written in chronological order. And all the authors choose different events in Jesus life that were important to share, that speak to what they are showing us about Jesus.

There are books called the Harmonies of the Gospels, and they try to align all the Gospels in chronological order within themselves, but also show how the Gospels line up with each other.

Luke skips the events of John 3 and 4, and the most of Matthew 3 & 4, which most theologians agree took place before this event in Luke 4. Jesus has established his name in the region, Luke, remember he is inspired by the Holy Spirit when writing this, doesn’t not feel the need to spend time on those events. He sums up in verses 14 and 15, that reports about him went out and that he had already been teaching in many synagogues.

And now Jesus comes back home. He comes back to his hometown. He comes back to his home synagogue, his home church essentially. As an aside, not the main point, but a valid point I believe, is to look at what this says about Jesus and his commitment to regular, public worship. They didn’t have churches then, they had synagogues. They didn’t meet on Sunday Mornings, they met on Saturday. But they did meet to worship God and to learn about his Word.

Jesus made sure that he attended this worship on a regular basis. There was no thought that since he was, you know, God, that he could worship God on his own, that he didn’t need fellowship or community. We have made this point with a few other things too, but if even Jesus, the Son of God himself, the Word incarnate, if even he needed regular worship and teaching and preaching, how much more do we?

Now, the Bible does not give us much regarding the order of the worship service in synagogues. What we know comes from outside sources, rabbis’ writings from this time and from this little bit of Luke. There was no set, weekly preacher. Often, if there were visiting rabbis from out of town, they would be asked to teach in the synagogue.

There would be singing, or reciting of some psalms, then the teacher would open up the scroll, would stand out of respect for Gods Word and would read a passage from what we call the Old Testament. He would then sit, and he would exposit the Word of God.

And that’s what Jesus did. He stood up and read from the scroll, finding, without chapters and verses, exactly the passages he was looking for. Even more impressive, if you took our Bibliology class, we know that Hebrew was written much differently than what we are used to reading. First, they did not write the vowels, just the consonants. Second, they didn’t write spaces in between the words, so it would look to   a non-Hebrew reader like a random string of letters.

All these things put together and we see that Jesus was intimately familiar with Gods Word, able to find the exact passages he was looking for and find them easily.

Jesus was very specific about choosing these verses as well. He read from Isaiah 61:1 & 2, and Isaiah 58:6. Why dd he pick these verses? Philip Ryken tells us: Luke recorded this sermon because of all the things that he wanted us to know for sure, the most important is the good news of salvation in Christ. And what better way for us to hear than from the Saviors own lips?

          Some call this passage, the Gospel according to Jesus. All that is wrong with this world, all that is broken, all that is because of sin will be restored and will be fixed. Those under bondage will be set free. Those who are blind will see. The poor will receive good news. This has a lesser, more immediate context of the physical and earthly. However, the fuller meaning of this is, of course, the spiritual, the heavenly and the eternal.

Jesus came to bring the good news of salvation. The poor that are mentioned here are the same words and the same meaning as the poor in Spirit in Matthews recount of the Sermon on the Mount. He came to show love, compassion and inclusion of the seeming outcasts of that time, to show that the Kingdom of heaven is open to many who would not be otherwise assumed.

Jesus announced the year of the LORDS favor, the jubilee of jubilees. Its interesting that Jesus didn’t read the last half of Isaiah 61:2 which mentions the day of vengeance of the LORD. Jesus rolls up the scroll and tells the congregation that the scripture he read is fulfilled that day with their hearing.

The day of vengeance was not fulfilled that day, but the season of the LORDs favor was fulfilled that day, fulfilled through Jesus. The day of evidence is not until Jesus comes back. But now, today, this very day, the blind are able to see, the captives are being set free and salvation is brought by Christ.

He says it is through their hearing that this is fulfilled. Jesus came and offered salvation by grace through faith in him. We know that Faith comes by hearing, Hearing by the Word of God.

Jesus says that it is now fulfilled. Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. He is the fulfillment of all signs, and types and shadows. He is the fulfillment of all promises and blessings. And we see that TODAY it is fulfilled. The blessings and the promises of God have started to be fulfilled and they are already accomplished, though we will not see the completion and the ultimate fulfillment of that until the Day of the LORD.

This is called the already and the not yet. Jesus speaks through the Gospels, of the Kingdom of Heaven in the present tense. Jesus is currently reigning in on his throne. We are currently being saved and glorified and sanctified. The Kingdom has already started to manifest itself here on earth, starting with Jesus first coming. IT will be finally and completely and perfectly and totally fulfilled and renewed and transformed when Jesus comes a second time. So, the Kingdom of God is already here and, at the same time, not yet here.

Jesus reads these scriptures to the congregation and we see that they spoke well of him and marveled at his teaching. Then they started asking, “Wait a minute, isn’t this Josephs boy?” They remember seeing him playing around the neighborhood. They remember him learning in the synagogue. They remember him working with Joseph in his carpentry business.

There seems to be a recognition that Jesus was a good teacher and a nice guy, but we certainly weren’t God, like he was insinuating with his sermon. By the way, he was doing a lot more than insinuating there.

 

You know, we see this a lot today. We hear it a lot. Some of us have even said it before, maybe not that long ago.

“Prove it.”

“Show me.”

“If God would just show himself, then Id believe.”

No. No you wouldn’t. How do I know? Because he did. And we see this morning how they responded. They didn’t believe Jesus when he was standing right in front of them. He even said, you didn’t believe me, why would you believe Moses?

He then goes and shows us a couple of examples from the Old Testament about those who didn’t demand signs or wonders or proof but believed by faith.

We are not going to read the whole stories, but the first one Jesus mentioned is from 1 Kings 17. In the middle of a three-and-a-half-year famine and drought, Elijah came upon a gentile woman in Sidon. She had just enough flour and oil for a single loaf of bread for her and her son. In fact, she said, I’m going to make this loaf and then we will sit down to die. Elijah tells her to bring him some too. She responded by faith and did bring him some, and the flour and oil she had lasted here throughout the rest of the famine.

Next Jesus tells a story from 2 Kings chapter 5. The Syrian king came down with a case of leprosy. He tried everything, from every god he could think of, but eventually sent for Elijah. He told him to dip himself in the Jordan river 7 times and then he would be healed. Now, he definitely fought back on this. He didn’t want to do it. But eventually he did, without and signs or wonders ahead of time. He responded out of faith that he didn’t fully have yet; it was still developing.

Jesus was telling them two things. First, that salvation comes by faith. It does not come through ancestry, or heritage, or any ability to see, or being a prisoner or a freeman, or a king or a widow, or anything else but faith alone. And second, this is Old Testament evidence, that salvation for Gentiles, that Gentiles being brought into the fold of the people of God was not a Plan B. Gods plan for salvation was always that both Gentiles and Jews would be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Nazarites in the synagogue did NOT appreciate this. It says they were full of wrath and fuming at what Jesus had to say. It seems that they didn’t even let Jesus finish the service. They were going to kill him.

See Jesus offended them in one of the deepest ways. He told them; they were not worthy. They were not good enough on their own to earn salvation. I love how Kent Hughes describes this. He writes: The fine citizens of Nazareth had heard enough. It was bad enough to be told that they were poor and blind and captive and oppressed, but now to be told they were less spiritual and less wise than the Gentiles, both Naaman and the widow, was just too much!”

 

          Jesus cut through their religious façade, through their outer moral shell. These would have been the people in church every Sunday. These would have been those who knew their Bible, inside and out. These would have been the church leaders and prominent members of the church community. But they were still spiritually blind. They were still captives to sin. And Paul writes in Romans 8:7 that the mind that is set on the flesh hostile to God. That’s what we are seeing here in Nazareth.

The congregants. Who knew Jesus, had grown up with him, who watched him grow up and who spoke well of him and marveled at his words, they back up Jesus to a cliff and were going to kill him.

Somehow Jesus escaped. Some say it was because he was so ordinary, that he couldn’t be picked out of the crowd. I believe this was a supernatural event. We know that this was not his time, and this was not the place that He was supposed to die. And so, somehow, he slipped through the crowd and escaped this attempt on his life.

It was not Gods will. It was not Gods plan for Jesus to die there in Nazareth. The plan was and always would be for Jesus to be tried and crucified by Pontius Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders. The plan was for him to be buried for three days and to rise up from the dead. The plan was exactly what happened. Paul recounts that in 1 Corinthians 15. That’s what happened and that’s what scriptures said was going to happen. That was what Jesus came to do and that’s what Jesus accomplished.

This is the last time we have Jesus recorded as being in Nazareth. Sometimes we are called to stay home when we want to go, sometimes we are called to go when we want to stay. But we are not going to get into that, that’s for next week.

The key takeaway for this passage in Luke is that the Grace of God needed by all and it is open for all who know that they need it. We can’t repent, we can’t believe, we can’t receive Gods grace unless we realize we need it. We are blind and cannot see without God opening our eyes.

Hebrews 11:6 says: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him

I think of who I was when I read thins like this. Before Christ, I was a good guy, a nice guy, moral and standup. I believe that God existed. I believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I believed that the Bible was true, but I had never read the Bible, so I didn’t know what it said. I didn’t know what it meant to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I did not have saving faith.

Then I started going to church. I started hearing the things the preacher was saying. It didn’t track with what I thought I knew. I realized I had to start reading the Bible and seeing what I claimed I believed in, what it truly had to say. It was then that I realized that I was in need of Gods grace. My morals, my being a good guy were worthless. I was blind. I was oppressed. I was captive. But Jesus came to set me free.

We all were and still are sinners in need of Gods grace. The quicker we stop trusting in ourselves and start to realize who we really are. The quicker we realize how needy we truly are before God, the quicker we can respond to his call.

 

I want to leave you this morning with a story I read this week.

 

A large prestigious British church had three mission churches under its care. In the first Sunday of each new year all the members of the mission churches would come to the parent church for a combined Communion Service. IN those mission churches, located in the slums of a major city, were some outstanding cases of conversions—thieves, burglars, and others. But all knelt as brothers and sisters’ side by side at the communion rail.

          On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England- the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served 7 years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker.

          After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the communion rail this morning?” The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, “What a miracle of Grace.” The pastor nodded in agreement. “A marvelous miracle of grace indeed.” The judge then inquired, “But to whom do you refer?”  “The former convict,” the pastor answered. The judge said, “I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself.” The minister, surprised, replied, “You were thinking of yourself? I do not understand.”

          “You see,” the judge went on, “it is not surprising that the burglar received Gods grace when he left jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he understood Jesus could be his savior, he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me- I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman, that my word was to be my bond, that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take communion and so on. I went to Oxford, obtained my degree, was called to the bar, and eventually became a judge. I was sure I was all I needed to be, though in fact I too was a sinner. Pastor, it was Gods grace that drew me. It was God’s grace that opened my heart to receive Christ. I’m the greater miracle!”

          All who bow to him, acknowledging their need and hopelessness, receive eternal life. Miracles of Grace! (From Kent Hughes)

 

Let us all see our need for Gods grace and what a miracle indeed it is that he opened our eyes to him and poured his grace out on us.

Let’s Pray.

Village Missions Sunday Focus on Rural Missions Ephesians 4:11-16

Village Missions Sunday

Focus on Rural Missions

Ephesians 4:11-16

 

 

Good Morning! SO. Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Ephesians chapter 4. We are going to be taking a break this morning from our series through the Gospel of Luke to look at Gods design for the local church and what our role in that is and what role Village Missions plays in it as well.

Who here had heard the name Village Missions? Who here has a general idea of who they are and what they do? Who here knows exactly who they are and what they do? Village Missions mission statement is that they exist to produce spiritually vital churches in Rural North America.

The text I want us to read this morning will show us what it means to become a spiritually vital church in our community. So, we are going to read from Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11-16. Grab your Bibles, follow along with me. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though more important than which translation you read along with, is that you do in fact read for yourself what the Word of God says.

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

          May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

The first thing I see in this passage is that God has given us all the things we need, people, gifts, each other, to grow the local church into a spiritually vital church. A lot of people think that it’s just the pastor’s job to grow and build the church.

But we see that has given the church more than just the pastor. As the pastor, I have very specific purposes and very specific things that God has called me to, and I will be held accountable for. But it is not solely my responsibility to grow and build the church. It is all of our responsibility.

The church is what and who helps the church grow. I have been around when new people have come to a church. Sometimes they are there for a day, sometimes they are around for a couple weeks, sometimes a couple months, but they leave because of someone or someone’s in the church.

At one church, we had many families start to come into the church, young families with kids. Exactly what the church said they wanted. Only the inner influencers at that church chased away every single family that came through the doors. Families didn’t dress or live the way they were supposed to. Kids didn’t sit down, shut up and stand quietly off to the side. The church actively, though likely unknowingly, stopped that church from growing.

The other option is that people come in those church doors and the people in the church help them stay. Bring them in, welcome them. Make them feel like the church is happy for them to be here. Help them to hear the Gospel and to grow in maturity of Jesus Christ.

That is the responsibility of each and everyone of us in this room. One of the things that Ephesians 4 makes clear, both in our passage this morning and back in verses 3-6 is that the unity of his church is absolutely vital to the church being spiritually vital.

Unity. Its one of the things that we have talked about and prayed for for the entire 2 ½ plus years I have been here. Unity is something that we are continually striving to get better at. We are a community Church. We are not a specific denomination. We hold the Bible up as our standard. With that, people from all different theological backgrounds and no theological backgrounds.  We are not going to agree on all the different details, and we don’t have to. You hear me say it often, but it bears repeating often. Unity is not uniformity.

Hear that. WE don’t all have to believe all the same things. We don’t all have to live the same life. We don’t have to look a certain look. We have to believe and be united in one thing. And that is Jesus Christ. We have one core set of beliefs that classify us as Christians.

We are saved by the grace of God alone. That grace is poured out through a gift of God called faith. And it is through that faith alone in the one and only Jesus Christ alone, fully man, fully God, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a death in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, through that faith that Jesus Christ reconciles us to God the father and grants us eternal forgiveness and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe that this is revealed only through the Word of God alone, that Word given to us by the scriptures that are combined into what we have and is known as the Bible. None of this is or can be deserved by us. It is done for the glory of God alone and by the glory and holiness of God alone.

We believe that core group of beliefs and everything else is secondary. We believe those core beliefs and we can rightfully call ourselves Christians. We believe those core beliefs and we are united as a church family and as the chosen children of God. We are united in our standing before God. Justified by faith. Justified through Christs perfect righteousness. In united in that we are all disciples of Christ.

You know, I use that word “disciples,” very purposely. New Village Missions Executive Director John Adams asks this question; “Do you think like Jesus, respond like Jesus, trust God like Jesus does?”

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a lifelong goal and a lifelong process. God is always offering opportunities for us to grow. But we can’t do it alone. We were never meant to do it alone.

Paul makes it clear in Ephesians that the church is to be “No Christian Left Behind.” WE build up the body until we ALL attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

          Christ is our standard. We cannot and will not meet that standard here in this lifetime. But we work towards and we desire for that progress. The Holy Spirit works in us and if we are truly Gods children, we will see continual growth and maturing over our lifetime. And we will see it together. And of course, it won’t be like a rocket, a straight line moving up, instead our sanctification is more like the stock market. It will have us and downs. We will rise and we will fall. But over time, we will always see it trending towards that maturity and that unity in the faith.

We work together, walking with each other from the beginning of our walk with Christ. We don’t start immediately mature. I know when I became a Christian, I knew very little of the Bible. Most of us are in the same boat. And because we don’t have that anchor in place, that foundation set of the Word of God, we are susceptible to false teachings. We are susceptible to passion and persuasive abilities to deceive. We are susceptible to those who would play off our emotions and take us down the wrong path.

We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we already agree with. We already have a natural human tendency to believe what we want to believe instead of what’s true.  We see this all the time. Do you have a bible teacher, a pastor online, or an author that you really like? Be careful, because we tend to put blinders on to what they teach and ignore if they say something unbiblical. Worse yet, if they start sound and go down the path and end up completely unbiblical, we ignore the problems with the new teaching and when confronted with it, we point to the older, more solid stuff. My point is this; if there is anyone that you let teach you or influence you and you cannot find anything that you disagree with them on, you just made them an idol.

Focus on the Bible. In context. Focus on learning and knowing his Word. That’s how we get to know Jesus. John Adams makes the point that The Better you know Christ and the more entrusted every area of life to his will, the less likely you will be deceived. Know and Trust his Word. BE sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit but be cautious. Only Jesus had a 100% true belief system. We only get a diminishing percentage of error.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we can speak the truth to others. But we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of speaking truth in a very unloving way. We unfortunately see it too often. I see it around here more often than I would like. I have also been guilty of it myself more often than I would like. We don’t always realize we are doing this when we do it though, so I want to say that if I have spoken truth to you or spoken anything for that matter, in an unloving way, I am sorry.

Paul here is talking about more than just the words that come out of our mouth though. The word used for truth here is a verb. It basically means that we are to be truthing in love. Our Words, our actions, our attitude even when we are speechless, our whole lifestyle, living out truth and love. Again, I know we can all agree that God gives us plenty of opportunities to improve in this area and to build unity.

If we have truth without love, we have hurt feelings, anger, and so much more. If we have so called love without truth, we have pretty lies. We give false hope. We see this in some many portrayals of Christianity in our culture. Christians are often only portrayed one of two ways.

First is that bigoted, close minded, hate filled protestor that says that everyone except them is going to hell. Now, they have some truth in that, in regard to we need to repent of our sins when we come to Christ. Rejecting Christ and embracing our sins will unfortunately lead us down the road to eternity in Hell. The other portrayal is those who claim that none of that matters and that every one gets to go to heaven or as long as you’re a nice person, you get to go to heaven, or that all religions lead to the same path towards heaven. They have what looks like love, but there is no truth there. Jesus makes the claim, the true claim, that He is the way, the truth and the life, and the only way to the Father is through him. You can’t have it both ways.

Truthing in love can and will be hard. But that what God calls his church to and it’s a sign of that spiritual maturity. And Paul is showing us what Gog has called his church to look like.

Discipleship.

Truthing in Love.

Unity in Christ

Growing in Maturity.

Using our gifts to build up the saints and to do the work of Gods Kingdom.

 

Gifts that Christ has given the church. Pastors and teachers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. You. You are the saints. You are here to do the work of the ministry. To walk and grow with each other. Make Bangor Community Church a spiritually vital church. You determine what this church looks like, how it acts, how it is seen in the community.

If you are here because God called you here, then you have a vital role to play in this church. If you are here because God called, you here you are responsible to use your gifts for the betterment of the church. You play a vital role in making this a spiritually vital church in our rural community.

First, and I’m not talking chronologically, but first, we make ourselves and our church family more spiritually mature. We walk together and grow to act more and more Christlike. We gather together and we worship together.

I said it recently and Ill say it again this week. A common anthem over the past 6 months with COVID and the church shutdowns and what not, the anthem is that the church is not the building, it’s the people. And that’s true but its not the whole truth. The word that is used for church in the New Testament means gathering. So more accurately, the church is the gathering of Gods people.

We gather to preach the Gospel. We learn and teach and study the Word of God. WE preach the Word.

 

The second thing we do. We love the people. We look out from this church; we look out from the building and we look at the community around us. We look at our family and our friends. We look at our co workers and all those we know that don’t know Christ.

Each and every one of us is responsible for showing and more importantly, telling those we know about the good news of the Gospel. Each and every one of us is responsible for praying for our friends, neighbors, loved ones, the Bible even says we are all responsible for praying for our enemies and those who don’t like as well. We are to love the People.

 

You know, one of the mottos that I fell in love with from Village Missions, and I cling to this, and use this as one of my guides. They say our job as Village Missionaries is to Preach the Word and Love the People. That’s what I just described.

Someone asked this week, “IF we don’t Bangor, who will?” There is so much truth in that question. Most rural communities are forgotten places. Most rural communities the non-hyperbolic answer is that outside of their own community, literally no one will be praying for them.

This one of the benefits to Village Missions. Its an organization, a web of churches in rural communities that can and do pray for each other. And they make it so easy to pray for each other. In our bulletin each week, we include the Village Missionaries of the week. The give a brief description of their field and then give a few brief prayer requests. They include in their communications, Stories from the Field. These are actual stories sent in by Village Missionaries about the work that God is doing on those fields. This way you can see how to pray and see the answer to those prayers.

Their quarterly Newsletter called Country Matters gets sent out as well, highlighting Village Missionaries and the mission. This most recent one talks about the retirement of Executive Director Brian Wechsler and the new Director, John Adams.

AS you all walk in the front, you will see the work in progress map I’ve got going on. That is a map of all the Village Missions fields throughout the country. These are rural or formerly rural in a few cases, rural communities that are all connected. They pray for each other. They know and share the unique challenges that come with rural ministry. They know the struggles and the blessings. The know the opportunities and the joys of seeing friends and family come to know the LORD and the heartache of seeing families destroyed, communities torn apart and disunity in the church.

IF you wonder if there is anyone outside of Bangor praying for us. There is. 230 communities throughout North America. 230 communities that Village missions serves plus numerous others that receive the Village Missions material. All praying for Bangor Community Church and this community.

Praying for the saints for each and everyone of us to build up the body of Gods church. Remember, Paul tells the Ephesians, no family member left behind, until we all attain the unity of the faith.

We sow the see of the Gospel. We go out and make disciples. We preach the Word and Love the People. We do that and God grows his church. In the book of Acts, it says that God added to his church daily.

IF we do Gods work, if we use the gifts that God gave us to use for the building up of the body of Christ, our local church, Bangor Community Church, will grow into a spiritually vital, spiritually healthy church.

And Gods church, the universal church will grow in numbers. God will bring the increase. We sow the seeds and he bring the growth. Numerically, that may or may not our local church. But we know that his church will increase, his people will come to know him and that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

After I pray, I’ve got a few Village Missions videos to play, maybe take 10 minutes total.

Let’s Pray.

 

 

 

Luke 1:5-25 Jesus is the Son of Man: Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:5-25

Jesus is the Son of Man:

Gabriel prophecies the birth of John the Baptist

 

Good Moring! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the book of Luke. If you do not have or own a Bible, we would be happy to give you one as our gift to you.

Last time I was up here, we were introduced to Doctor Luke and his Gospel. We saw who Luke was, when he wrote this Gospel and why he wrote it. One of the things we learned about Luke is that he is a storyteller. He was a researcher. He was a historian and he was an investigator.

And in that, one of the things that makes Luke’s Gospel different is that he does go into more details and shares more stories and more of the stories than the other Gospels. We see that here in, basically all of Luke chapter 1, stories from before the birth of Christ.

Here, in his research and investigations, Luke recognizes that John the Baptist was vital, it was integral to the whole story of Jesus Christ. The story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christs starts with the birth and life of John the Baptist.

After the book of Malachi, after his prophecies, there was 400 years of silence from God. No prophecies, no nothing. Israel was waiting. It was a dark time. And though Jesus Christ would be the dawn, the light breaking through the darkness, John the Baptist was the one who told us, let us know that the light was coming.

And today, Luke is going to introduce the parents of John and show how the hand of God started moving again after waiting 400 years. In chapter 1 here, Luke would compare and contrast the coming of and the birth of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.

And he sees that this story is important to tell to Theophilus because he wants to show him that God is in control. He is sovereign and he ordains the timing of the births of those in this world. As one commentator points out, these are not just coincidences that God uses to achieve his plans, but he ordains and orchestrates and orders it all according to his will.

So, let’s go ahead and read this mornings passage, Luke chapter 1, verses 5-25. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please grab your Bibles and follow along in your translation. Reading the Word for yourself is so very important. Luke 1:5-25, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,[a] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

Luke starts with some details that help add gravity and authenticity to his writings. In the day of Herod, King of Judah. That’s when this story takes place. This Herod, which is a title more than it is a name, ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was under the Roman government, but he was nominally the King of the Jews. He was in authority over Judah at this time. We are going to hear more about him in the coming weeks as well.

In those days, a man named Zechariah was a priest. There were many, many priests in those days. The Old Testament divides up the priests into 24 divisions. Each division had many priests. I’ve seen numbers up to 8000 priests each. They would take turns and each division would serve at the temple for two, one-week periods each year. During that week, they would draw lots to see each day which priest would enter the holiest part of the temple, light incense and pray, one in the morning and one in the evening. Most priests would not have the opportunity to be picked for this job even once in their lifetime.

Zechariah was married to a woman named Elizabeth, also of the priestly line of Aaron, considered a double blessing in those days. They were both righteous and blameless in their walk with the LORD. This is of course, not the same as being sinless, but meaning that they were godly and upright, they were walking with the LORD.

So, we know that it was not because of something that they had done that God struck them childless. Children in those days were regarded as “Gods reward for faithful service.” And so, Zechariah and Elizabeth would have been looked at, whispered about, even gossiped about in their town. They look like they are living right, but God won’t give them a child so they must be sinning somehow…

As we see with Jobs friends as well, this is poor theology and poor assumptions. God chooses, not we earn. They were barren, like we often we see throughout scriptures. Abraham and Sarah. Hannah, whose prayer we heard this morning. So many more, and not barren as a punishment, but barren so Gods miraculous power could be shown and observed. They were not barren because they sinned, but barren to bring glory to God.

This is a very real struggle that so many couples deal with on a daily basis today. Knowing that God is in control can help, but it doesn’t fully take away the pain, the disappointment. If this is something you have struggled with, please don’t misunderstand me and think that is what I am saying. But Zechariah and Elizabeth did show that you can have that pain and disappointment and still be content with and faithful to the LORD.

And as we are going to see, they never stopped praying either. IF there is something you have been praying for and its been years, or longer, don’t stop praying. I’m not telling you that God definitively say Yes to the prayer, but throughout scripture we see God tell us to keep praying. No matter what, don’t stop praying. God will answer. It may be Yes; it may be No, or it may be Later. But he will answer.

 

Zechariah went for one of his weeks of service to the Temple in Jerusalem. This time God cause the lot to fall his way and Zechariah was chosen for one of, if not the greatest honor of his life. Definitely the greatest honor of his professional life. He was chosen to enter the temple and light the incense and pray. The rest of the priests waited outside and prayed while the priest was inside.

While Zechariah was inside, after he lit the incense and while he was praying, he got the surprise of his life. Gabriel, whom we just saw as we went through Daniel, had appeared and was standing in front of him. For those who are further interested, Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Luke, looks into the parallels of Gabriel and his appearances in both Luke and Daniel.

I want us to notice how Zechariah reacted upon seeing Gabriel. Fear. Awe. These are the appropriate responses to an encounter with an angel. This is what we see in Daniel. This is what we see here with Zechariah. This is what we see throughout scripture. And that’s how it should be. Angels are heavenly beings who serve and reflect the glory of God. The Glory of God is so great that it cannot help but cause us to fall down in awe and fear.

Gabriel tells him, do not be afraid Your prayers have been heard! What prayers is he referring to? Well, there are three options. First, it could be referring to the prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth have been praying for years. The prayer for a baby, for a child. Or it was the prayer that Zechariah, as priest was likely praying in there, the prayer for Israel, for renewal, for restoration, for deliverance, for God to start speaking again, for the coming Messiah.

Both of those would be answered right here, leading me ( and many theologians) to believe that Zechariah was praying for both of those things there inside the holiest part of the temple and that Gabriel was referring to both of those prayers.

He tells Zechariah that he is going to have a boy, a son. Finally, a child! His name will be John. We get deeper into the life and ministry of John here in a few weeks. But Zechariah is to rejoice and be glad! John will play a major role in Gods plans. He will lead the way for the coming messiah. Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be great before the LORD. God chose John for a very specific mission, for a very specific purpose, just like He has for each and every one of us. And John would not disappoint.

Gabriel told Zechariah that John was not to drink wine or strong drinks. This leads many commentators to believe that John was a Nazarite. This was the vow or the lifestyle or whatever that Samson had in Judges as well. Like John, an angel told Samson’s parents before birth that he would be born and be held to these standards. However, Samson was told clearly and along with no wine or strong drink, it was spelled out that he could not cut his hair or touch any dead bodies. We don’t see that with John, so while he very well may have been held to the Nazarite vow, we have no actual scriptural evidence for that.

Gabriel continues and says something quite remarkable and even more so for that time. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even within the womb. John is the only person in scripture that we see this with. And he is the first person to receive the Holy Spirit in the New Testament manner. By the way, this is a great pro-life passage, as it shows Johns personhood in the womb, it shows him named, and it shows him holy spirit filled and already known by God.

 

You know, I was reading a lot this week about Zechariah and I’m also reflecting on the words and behaviors and attitudes of many Christians online and in real life as we ramp up another election season and in one of the sermons on Luke that I read I saw this line. “Sometimes, Gods people, they talk to much and the wait to little.” Zechariah absolutely should have heeded this. LORD knows I need to heed this at times!  I exhort each of you to look in yourselves and see if this is something that you need to work on as well. Is it true, is it edifying, is it holy and pure? No? Then don’t say it.

Zechariah says what he says though. How can this be? I’m old! Like really old! And so is my wife! Like Really old! He disbelieved the Supernatural power of God. He did not believe that God could do for he and his wife what he did for Abraham and Sarah. What he did for Hannah, what he does every day for countless couple.

I appreciate what the commentator pointed out, however, what we all need to remember and that’s grace for Zechariah and grace for those around us who say stupid things, who spout off, who dont think before they speak. We know that this event was preceded by and followed by a lifetime of walking with God, being blameless and upright. This was a slip. It was a stupid, fleeting moment and this moment should not define Zechariahs life and define who he was. Just like Peters three denials of Christ, this is a moment in their lives where the sanctification hits a snag, it happens to all of us. If you say it doesn’t, your lying.

Of course, as we see, to say that there should be grace does not mean that there will not be consequences and repercussions. Gabriel responds to Zechariah, telling him who he is and that he is speaking for God right now.  How dare Zechariah question him!

We know that there are right ways and wrong ways to question God. Examples such as Mary and Job were just fine in how they ask questions of God. Examples such as Sarah and Zechariah show how not to respond when God promises to do the impossible.

John Piper reminds us that its not wrong to want evidence, but it is wrong to demand signs beyond what a humble and open heart would require. Mary asked, “How can this be? She was asking for an explanation because she couldn’t understand. Zechariah asked, how can I know this? He was asking for evidence because he couldn’t believe. I believe That’s the difference.

And the consequence for not believing the words of God was that John would now be silent, he would now be mute until after John is born. John spoke when he shouldn’t have and said what he shouldn’t have, and this was the repercussions.

Now, while all this was going on, the other priests were outside waiting for Zechariah to come out and lead the closing prayer. But when he came out, he obviously couldn’t. All he could do was motion around and it was clear to the other priests that Zechariah had seen a vision. Once the week was over, and this division of priests were done with their service, Zechariah went home.

Elizabeth became pregnant and she kept away from everyone and everywhere for 5 months. After waiting that long to have a child, she was soaking up every possible moment, sensation and experience she could. And she may have been afraid to tell people because she wasn’t sure if her body would be able to keep the baby. Remember Zachariah couldn’t tell her what the angel said, so she didn’t have the promise that he was given.  As she prayed, she says that the LORD took away her reproach.

No one would be able to look down on them and wonder what hidden sin was in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. No more whispers or glances. They were redeemed. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you have done, where you are from, God gives life where there otherwise would be no life. He did it by putting a baby in Elizabeth’s womb and he does it every time someone responds to him in faith, he brings them out of spiritual and everlasting death and in to spiritual and everlasting life.

God does that for us. He takes away our reproach, our shame. He takes our unrighteousness and replaces it with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Perfect God and Perfect man. John comes to tell of him, to make smooth the way of the LORD. To prepare Gods people to know God. Christ came to save sinners.

God gives salvation freely by his own grace which he pours out on us by the faith that he gives us in his Son, Jesus Christ. He gives it freely to those who respond to his calling and who do so by faith.

However momentary, Zechariah, when given the answer to his prayers, when faced with the miraculous and the supernatural, lacked faith. Don’t follow his example. Faith is the vehicle that God uses to pour out his saving grace. Jesus says in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The one being sent, of course, is Jesus Christ.

I will close this sermon with an exhortation, in the words of Philip Graham Ryken, who closes his commentary on this passage with these words:

This is what God always wants from us: faith. He wants us to take him at his word. So whatever God says, believe it! He has said that Jesus died and rose again, so believe in the crucifixion and the resurrection. He has said that he will forgive anyone who comes to him trusting in Jesus; so, if you are a sinner, believe in Jesus and know that your sins are forgiven. God has said that he will never leave you or forsake you; so whatever troubles you are facing, believe that God will help you to the very end. He has also said that Jesus is coming again to judge the world. If this is what God has said, then we need to get ready by turning away from sin and trusting in Jesus.

 

Amen! Let’s Pray!

 

Daniel 9, pt 1 God of All Nations: A Model Prayer

Daniel 9, pt 1

God of All Nations

A Model Prayer

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me, if you would and turn to Daniel chapter 9. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Daniel chapter 9 is an important chapter. It is a chapter that it is almost impossible to read without bringing preconceived ideas and assumptions into it. The last 4-8 verses are some of the most complicated, debated and unclear verses in all the Bible. No matter where you fall in what those last few verses mean, most commentators agree that these are amongst the most complex verses.

And yet, before those verses, we have an amazing number of verses. The first 19 verses of this chapter get almost no recognition or love. They often get passed over or ignored in favor of those last few, but they are full of rich, deep, theological and encouraging content.

So, we are going to make sure that we don’t pass over them or ignore them, but see what Daniel and God have for us to hear. So, we will start with Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. I greatly encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel chapter 9, verses 1 & 2, Daniel records:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

 

May God Bless the Reading of His Word.

 

So, we remember that the first 6 chapters of Daniel were a history of him and some friends in exile in Babylon, a history that spanned close to 70 years. As we started the second half of the book, we have gone back In time to revisit or visit for the first time, chunks of that 70 years where Daniel had a vision form God, or a dream, or an appearance by an angel. And we are going through and looking at those sections.

So today, with chapter 9, we pick up at the same time as Daniel chapter 6. We are in the first year of King Darius’ rule in Babylon, the first year of the rule of the Meads and Persians. And Daniel is going to lay out a prayer that should be the envy of all of us and that we should all strive to emulate. That prayer is likely where we will spend the most time, but that prayer is not where we start, and it won’t be where we end. It is however what sets the context for everything else we talk about.

One of the first things we see here, other than the date, is that Daniel reads scripture. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it may be a surprise to know what he considered scripture.

Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered from 626 BC till 587 BC. As a frame of reference, David was brought from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC and the Babylon fell to the Meads and Persians in 539 BC, which is when this is taking place.

And so, Jeremiah was not long established in Jewish history as a prophet of God. Instead, he was much closer to a contemporary of Daniel. We have already established throughout this series that Daniel had the Holy Spirit working in and through him. HE was real. And the phrase used today is Real Recognizes Real.

Daniel recognized that Jeremiahs prophecies were truly a word from God. They were scripture. Those who are going to be a part of scripture often can recognize scripture as it is being written.

We saw this in the New Testament as well. In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says that Paul’s writings are scripture as well. The internal testimony of Scripture is one of our biggest reasons to trust what the scriptures say and to know that they are in fact, God breathed and inerrant.

So, Daniel recognized Jeremiah as a prophet, oh ya! Who was speaking the Word of God. And he saw in Jeremiahs writings that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years.

There are two specific texts in Jeremiah that speak to this. Ill read both of them to you. First is Jeremiah 25:11 & 12, which reads:  This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.

 

And then the context for one of them most famous bible verses, Jeremiah 29:10, in which God declares:  “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

 

Now, we remember that often times, the dates and numbers of prophecies are not meant to be taken completely literally. Sometimes they are round numbers, close to actual numbers, sometimes the are symbolic based on what the numbers represent. And sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.

If the 70 years of exile started in 605, when Daniel was taken of out Jerusalem and brought into Babylon, (there’s no consensus that this IS when it starts, btw,) then Daniel would have been reading this text and praying the prayer we are about to look at in 539, then 66 years would have already passed. And the point of that is that Daniel new that the point where God was going to restore Jerusalem was somewhat close at hand.

He knew what God had promised. He knew it was going to happen. He knew a general timeframe. There was no doubt. And he would have started to see some of those promises begin to be fulfilled. The Babylonians were defeated. The time was nigh.

One of the common troubles, or temptations that we face as Christians is trying to maintain the balance of knowing and acknowledging that God is completely sovereign and his will will be done no matter what and that tendency and temptation to use that as an excuse or reason to not act.

But we see and hopefully have experienced that reading Gods Word will prompt us to prayer. Seeing Gods promises should prompt us to pray. Yes, even praying for him to fulfill the very promises that we know he will fulfill. As we see those promises start to be fulfilled, as Daniel did, that should not prompt us to relax our prayers, but should increase our urgency to pray.

And so, next we will look at Daniels prayer. This is, in all likelihood, not the prayer that we see that Daniel prayed in Daniel chapter 6. But this was in that same time frame, the first year of King Darius, and it was likely the same type of prayer, maybe the same subject content.

Daniels prayer is recorded in Daniel 9:3-19:

 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,[a] by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

 

 

What a prayer! Gods foreknowledge and his predestination, other words for his complete sovereignty are shown by Daniel throughout this prayer. And though God has everything already figured out and determined, Daniel doesn’t sit back, instead he devotes himself to prayer. One commentator says it that Gods sovereign purposes should spark us to act, in both prayer and action. I love how Sinclair Ferguson notes that our prayers in this situation should often sound like kids talking to their parents, continually reminding the parents of what they never forgot, “You promised!”

 

 

Daniel turns his face to the LORD, and he seeks him by prayer. He pleads with the LORD. We are reminded by the prayers in the Bible, that prayers are us talking to God, prayer is not God talking to us. Hebrews 1:1 reminds us that there is only one way that God talks to us today and that is through his Word, the testimony of Jesus Christ who is the Word. This prayer from Daniel is him seeking and glorifying God.

All true prayer should first and foremost seek to magnify God and to humble oneself. That last part is one of the reasons why we see fasting, and sackcloth and ashes are so intertwined with prayer in the scriptures. They are partly to humble us as we go before God. Another part of that is that fasting eliminates distractions and helps us to focus on God much more clearly. It reminds us that our dependence is on God and nothing else.

Daniel has four parts to this prayer. And that’s not saying that all of our prayers need to follow this preset formula or anything like that, but its good to see some of the parts of biblical prayers so that we can utilize them on our own personal prayer life.

These four parts include worship, confession of sin, both individual and corporate, the justice of God and the judgment of sin, and finally, a plea for Gods mercy on our sin.

Prayer needs to start always with confession. Again, this is not referring to a legalistic format that prayer needs to take, but at our heart prayer needs to have as its basis two things. First, we need to recognize Gods, “Godness.” And second, we need to see the covenantal nature of our relationship with God.

When we see these two things in reality, we must see the true nature of our sins. Daniel says, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have rebelled, we have turned aside from your commands. All different ways of saying the same thing. We sinned.

But God is a perfect and holy God. God has not sinned. He has only loved. He has given us his commands and he has shown us His ways. And in response to him, we have all sinned and only sinned always. Daniel says, we have not listened to your prophets, we have not listened your Word. We have not listened to what you have already told us.

In verse 7, Daniel compares Gods righteousness with our own righteousness. We should be ashamed of our sin. Our sins, the sins of our past are directly responsible for present and our troubles. We are responsible for the consequences of our sins.           Judah and Israel were in exile, Judah here in Babylon, punished because of their sin and turning their back on God and His Word.

 

And yet, just like salvation belongs to the LORD, so do mercy and forgiveness belong to the LORD. We have rebelled, no. We need to call it what it is. We have sinned. All of us. And so, because we have sinned, we are in need of Gods mercy and forgiveness.

Verse 11 reminds us that ALL Israel transgressed, or sinned. Just as Paul tells us in Romans 3, that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. WE all have sinned, and we have all made the conscious choice to sin. And we have all suppressed that truth in our unrighteousness.

Gods wrath and justice are poured out on those who deserve it. Those who have sinned against the Holy God. None of us are worthy of mercy and forgiveness. None of us are innocent. We will revisit that later on.

 

One of the things that Daniel does here that I think is a good habit to get into, is praying scripture back to God. We confirm his word and help us to remember what he has already told us.

 

It is important to remember that it is not our suffering that grants us favor with God. The previously mentioned fasting and sackcloth and ashes do not grant us favor with God or make us more holy. Israel and Judah’s exile and the troubles they were going through in said exile did not grant them favor with God.

What does grant us favor with God is God himself. When we repent of our sins and believe in the truth of Gods Word, meaning the witness of his Son Jesus Christ) that is a gift from God as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. Gods grace poured out and delivered through faith in Christ.

So, suffering does not grant us favor with God, but suffering does often lead us to the recognition that we need Gods grace and forgiveness and we need to repent. We look around at our lives, at our actions, at our hearts, and at the people and the world around us and we see sin. We see the consequences, the brokenness of our lives and of this world and we see the need to repent and put our trust and faith in someone bigger, greater and stronger than ourselves.

 

In verse 14, Daniel prays what just might be the key verse in all the Bible. He says “the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice” If you take nothing else away from my sermon this morning, remember that verse. It is the basis of everything.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

 

In verses 16-19, as Daniel gets to the end of what we see recorded of his prayer, we see that Daniel is praying for justified wrath and justice that he is pouring out on those who deserve it, he is praying that God turns that into mercy. He is praying for the liberation of and the return to Jerusalem. He has already been told that it will happen.

Verse 18 Daniel again clarifies that we petition, or ask these things of God, not because we are owed anything or because we have earned anything, it is not of our righteousness. No, it is Gods righteousness. IT is Gods Mercy. It is Gods grace and his holy character, his promises that we base our petitions to Him on.

In verse 19, we see the key point that all things are done to Gods glory. Daniel prays that all of Gods actions, Him hearing us, Him seeing everything, Him forgiving, all of it, Do it LORD because of and for your glory.

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “Daniels ultimate motive for prayer was the glory of God because it was his great motive for living. Daniel clearly saw the need of the people. His praying was clearly people oriented, but it was God centered. The bottom line of his heart cry was “Save your people, LORD, for your own sake,”

That’s where we are going to leave off this morning, looking at Daniels prayer to God. Next week we will look at Gods response to Daniels prayer. Again, a complicated and confusing section. We wont all agree, but we will all love each other and unite under the cross of Jesus Christ.

Israel’s exile would end, but their rebellious heart would continue. All of our rebellious hearts continued. It is only the Holy Spirit rewriting our hearts, Jesus Christ making us a new creation that wipes our slate clean and allows us to be reconciled to God. For now, even as our hearts have been renewed, we still live in this world as exiles, just as Daniel was an exile in Babylon. The day will come when our exile will end. We will get to go home, and we will get to live and serve in the true and eternal kingdom, the kingdom of God.

We get to do that because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Let’s Pray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis, we celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. 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.

 

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