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Spending Time With Jesus: Avoiding Gospel Killjoys—Luke 5:33-6:5


Someone incorrectly defined a Christian as “a person who suffers from an overwhelming dread that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone may be enjoying himself.”

Since God is absolutely good, truly enjoying Him and our life dedicated to His glory is the greatest joy possible.

But we all have met someone who fits that incorrect definition—a religious person who only seems to be content when everyone else is miserable. “They put starch in their underwear and they want to make sure that everyone else lives the same way!”

I had a university football coach tell me that “you Christians don’t have much fun” when we compared ourselves going to a party. My response: the difference between you and me is that I can go a party and know where I who I was with, and what I did the next day!” We both laughed and he did not disagree with my assessment.

Two of the biggest spiritual killjoys have been ascetics and legalists. Ascetics deliberately make life tough on themselves and think that pleasure is evil or, at least, tends toward evil. They wouldn’t feel quite right to enjoy life.

Legalists delight in keeping their lists of rules and judging those who don’t have or keep the same rules. Invariably, their rules are not the weighty matters of God’s Law, such as love, justice, mercy, and matters of the heart.

Rather, they congratulate themselves for keeping man-made standards dealing with external things and they judge those who ignore these things. Ascetics and legalists are gospel killjoys.

In our text, Jesus encounters some who tended toward asceticism and some who were legalistic, especially with regard to Sabbath observance. These events probably did not occur chronologically next to each other, but Luke places them in this context to show the supremacy and authority of Jesus over the old system and to show the growing hostility toward Jesus from the Jewish religious leaders.

They grumbled when He forgave the sins of the paralytic (5:21). They grumbled some more when Jesus and the disciples ate and drank with tax-gatherers and sinners at Levi’s house (5:30). And they were unhappy about Jesus’ disciples plucking, rubbing, and eating the heads of grain on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ defense shows us how to avoid these two gospel killjoys:

To avoid the gospel killjoys of asceticism and legalism, focus on the joy of a personal relationship with Christ.

Satan wants to promote the mistaken idea that Christianity is a joyless, grit-your-teeth-and-endure-it sort of religion. If people think that, they will turn to something or someone other than God as the source of their joy. God’s purpose is for His creatures to glorify Him.

A joyless Christian or someone who finds his greatest joy in something other than God, does not glorify God. We only glorify God when we find true joy in Him. Thus asceticism and legalism are both enemies of the good news Jesus came to bring.

1. Asceticism kills the joy of the gospel.

Everyone who seeks after God recognizes the problem of controlling the flesh. Due to the sin that indwells us all, we all are drawn after many of the sinful pleasures that God forbids in the Bible.

Asceticism is the attempt to conquer these sinful passions through self-denial of some form. This can include fasting (abstaining from food), celibacy (abstaining from marriage or marital relations), poverty (renouncing any accumulation of worldly goods), and other similar practices. But asceticism differs from the self-denial Jesus advocated in the realm of motive.

Outwardly, it would seem as if John the Baptist lived an ascetic lifestyle. He remained single, he lived on a meager diet, he dressed simply, and he lived a Spartan life for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Although the Pharisees were generally opposed to John the Baptist’s ministry because he confronted their hypocrisy, they found common ground with John’s disciples on the practice of fasting. So they sought to use this against Jesus and His disciples, who seemed to be more into feasting than fasting.

The Law of Moses only prescribed one fast per year, on the Day of Atonement, although Jewish custom had added four yearly fasts. But the stricter Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday.

You could tell they were fasting because they whitened their faces, put ashes on their heads, wore old clothes, and looked as somber as possible. They had the idea that you couldn’t be spiritual unless you looked and felt miserable.

And, they wanted to impress everyone else with how spiritual they really were. So fasting, if it stems from our heart as a means of devoting time to be alone with God to seek Him in prayer, can be rewarding. The motive is crucial. John the Baptist and his disciples no doubt fasted out of the proper motives, whereas the Pharisees and their disciples did not.

But in our text, Jesus doesn’t draw lines between John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Instead, He defends His disciples by asking rhetorically whether you can make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is present.

The answer is, “Obviously, not. A wedding is a time of feasting, not fasting.”

Thus while Jesus the Bridegroom was with them, His disciples were not called to fasting. Then Jesus (for the first time in Luke) alludes to His own impending death. In that day His followers would fast.

Jesus follows this with three short explanatory illustrations that make the point that He is ushering in a new day spiritually. No one cuts a patch from a new garment to patch up an old one. This would ruin the new garment and it would not match the old one. Nor does anyone put new wine into old wineskins. The old, brittle skin would burst, losing both the old skin and the new wine.

With these two illustrations Jesus claims that He is offering something new and distinct from the old dispensation of the Law. As Messiah, He is ushering in the new day. While there is obvious continuity, in that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament promises regarding Messiah, there is also a definite transition.

Judaism had become encumbered with many manmade traditions. Jesus had to cut these away in order to offer the new wine of gospel joy.

The third illustration (5:39) is probably both a warning and an explanation. The person who is used to the old wine will not desire the new, but will be content with the old.

The Pharisees would resist Jesus’ ministry because they were so entrenched in their traditions. The point of this illustration is not that the old ways are better than the new, but rather that a person who is used to the old ways will be prone to resist the new.

But the Pharisees would have to break with their old, ascetic and legalistic ways if they wanted to follow the new way of joy that Jesus was offering.

Should Christians practice fasting? There are no direct commands to fast in the epistles, but there are examples of Paul and others fasting in times of personal crisis, in special times of seeking the Lord, or when they needed God’s guidance (Acts 9:9; 13:2, 3; 14:23).

Fasting can be helpful if you need to repent of sin or if you sense that you’ve drifted from the Lord and need to draw near again.

Fasting can be appropriate during a time of grief; to seek deliverance or protection; to express concern for God’s work; to minister to the needs of others; to overcome temptation; and to express love and devotion to God.

So, fasting is not commanded, but it is commended as a means of seeking God.

It’s interesting that both self-discipline and joy are listed as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). Again, motive is crucial. If the Lord prompts us to fast for one of the reasons just mentioned, then we should obey.

But we always need to be on guard against pride and the flesh. God is not impressed with outward ritual or anything that feeds our pride. If we’re not careful, fasting can turn into asceticism, which kills the joy of the gospel. If we fast, we must do it as unto the Lord, not to impress others.

2. Legalism kills the joy of the gospel.

Luke presents the Pharisees’ confrontation with Jesus’ disciples over their picking grain on the Sabbath to show the growing tension between the Jewish leaders and Jesus and to show that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

The Law of Moses allowed for picking the grain as you walked through a neighbor’s field (Deut. 23:25). The problem, in the Pharisees’ minds, was that picking grain was reaping, rubbing the grain was threshing, blowing away the husks was winnowing, and the whole process was preparing food. All this was work according to their man-made rules, and thus forbidden on the Sabbath.

So the disciples were not breaking God’s Sabbath commandment, but rather the rabbinic refinement of that commandment. Jesus and the disciples were challenging pharisaic custom.

But surprisingly, Jesus did not point out that His critics were following the commands of men rather than the commands of God. Instead, He took an incident from the life of David (1 Sam. 21:1-7) in which he violated the letter of the law in order to meet human needs.

David and his men were fleeing from Saul. They came to the Tabernacle, where David asked the priest for the consecrated bread, which was put on the table of shewbread and replaced each Sabbath. The priests could then eat the old bread (Lev. 24:9).

But in this case, David and his men, who were not priests, ate the bread. Jesus’ point is that legitimate human need (hunger) superseded the letter of the ceremonial law. People take precedence over ritual, even if that ritual is ordained by God.

His critics were probably thinking and about ready to ask, “What makes you think that you can compare yourself with David?” But then Jesus makes the stunning claim that He, the Son of Man, is the Lord of the Sabbath!

Since God had instituted the Sabbath at creation (Gen.2:1-3), as well as stipulated it in the Ten Commandments through Moses, Jesus was saying that He was above Moses and was in fact on the same level as God who originated the Sabbath command!

As the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus had the authority to interpret the force, intent, and limits of the Sabbath law. As the next incident and many others in the Gospels show, Jesus challenged the legalistic approach of the Pharisees, which was not God’s intent in giving the Sabbath law.

Legalism always kills the joy of the good news that Jesus came to bring. It is a common problem in our day, but there is a lot of confusion about it. So we need to be careful to understand what it is and what it is not.

In the first place, obedience to God’s commandments is not legalism. Jesus often emphasized the importance of obedience to God’s Word. The Bible is full of various rules, some negative, some positive, which God has commanded for our good.

Keeping them is not legalism. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God or hang loose with regard to His moral commandments.

Secondly, keeping man-made rules is not necessarily legalism. There are many areas not specified in the Bible where we need some rules to function as a Christian family or church. While these human rules are not as important as the commands of Scripture, there is a proper place for them and keeping them is not tantamount to legalism.

For example, if your parents set a curfew for you, they are not being legalistic and you are not free to disregard their curfew because you’re “under grace”!

So what is legalism? Essentially, it is an attitude of pride in which I congratulate myself for keeping certain standards and condemn those who do not keep them. It also seems to suggest that one is ‘earning their grace’ or ‘putting God in their debt.’

Usually the legalist thinks that his conformity to these rules makes him acceptable to God, either for salvation or sanctification. Invariably, these standards are not the great commandments of the Bible, such as loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Most often they are external things which the legalist is able to keep.

The legalist judges spirituality by external conformity to certain rules. “Do you keep the Sabbath as we have defined it? Very well.” It doesn’t matter whether your heart is full of pride or lust or greed. What matters is that you keep the Sabbath rules.

Legalists ignore motives and inner righteousness. What matters to them is outward conformity. God hates that sort of thing, because it stems from the flesh (Isa. 1:11-14). God is concerned that we please Him from our hearts.

What about this matter of the Sabbath? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? Are we required to observe it as the Jews observed Saturday? If not, does it apply in any way to us? After all, it is one of the Ten Commandments, and all of the others apply to us!

I think that in reacting against legalism concerning the Lord’s Day, we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. The principle of setting one day in seven apart for worship and rest is a gift that God has given to the human race for our benefit. “The Sabbath was made for man.”

If we treat every day the same, except that on Sunday we attend a church service, we’re missing the blessing God intended by giving us the Sabbath commandment. We should set apart the Lord’s Day as a special day for worship and for rest from our normal duties.

Clearly, we are not under the rigorous regulations which applied to the Jewish nation, where God demanded that a man caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath should be stoned (Num. 15:32-36). But neither are we free to shrug off the Sabbath principle completely.

Even though we are not under the letter of the Jewish Law, there is an abiding principle of setting apart unto the Lord one day each week. We don’t do it to earn points with God or to check it off our list to prove that we’re spiritual.

We don’t take pride in our observance of the Lord’s Day and condemn those who are not up to our level of spiritual insight. But we should set aside the Lord’s Day out of love for Him, in order to honor Him.

So, asceticism and legalism kill the joy of the gospel Jesus came to bring. But how do we get and maintain that joy?

3. A personal relationship with Christ is the basis for true gospel joy.

Jesus refers to Himself here as the bridegroom. Remember, He was talking, at least in part, to some disciples of John the Baptist. So Jesus picked up on something John had said just prior to his imprisonment and used it to frame His answer.

John had referred to himself as the friend of the bridegroom and to Jesus as the bridegroom. John said that his joy was made full by hearing the voice of the bridegroom (John 3:29).

So here Jesus uses this analogy and points out what was obvious to anybody in that culture, that the soberness of fasting was incongruent with a wedding feast.

Jewish weddings lasted for seven days and were to be a time of joy and festivity. Even if the wedding week occurred during the most strict of Jewish fasts, the Day of Atonement, the bride could relax one of the ordinances. All mourning was to be suspended. Even the obligation of daily prayers ceased. To make the bride and groom happy was seen as a religious duty. So Jesus says, “You cannot make [them] fast while the bridegroom is with them.”

As we’ve seen, there are times when fasting is appropriate. There are times when the most spiritually mature Christians will be sad, when they will grieve, when they won’t be marked by joy.

But Jesus is the bridegroom and when He is with His people, they normally will not be marked by the gloom of fasting, but rather by the joy of the wedding feast. The joy of the Christian life is being personally related to our loving Bridegroom!

You can’t patch Jesus unto a joyless system of asceticism or legalism. You can’t pour the new wine He brings into the old wineskins of keeping manmade rules as the basis of your relationship with God.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: Why Religious People Reject Christ or Missed Opportunities! – Luke 4:14-30


Would it surprise you to be reminded that Jesus experienced the most opposition in His ministry from the religious crowd, not from those outside.

The reason Luke begins with this story is that it serves as a cameo of Luke’s Gospel: Jesus goes to His own people and reveals Himself as their promised Messiah, but they reject Him; so the gospel message goes to the Gentiles. The story shows us some reasons why religious people often reject Jesus Christ: Religious people reject Christ because they do not want to submit to His lordship and they do not want to admit their sinful, desperate condition.

As we study this portion of God’s Word, we need to take it to heart that most of us are religious people or we would not be in church listening to this sermon!

It was the religious crowd in Nazareth that not only reacted against Jesus’ sermon, they went right from their “church” service to try to shove the speaker off a cliff! I trust that no one here would do that, but still, we must be careful to examine our own hearts, so that we do not imitate the religious people of Nazareth in their hostile rejection of Jesus.

Missed Opportunities? Luke 4:14-30

We’ve all heard the words of the poet who wrote, “The saddest words of tongue or pen are simply these, It might have been.” How often do we miss opportunities to speak a word for Christ …miss opportunities for service …miss opportunities to worship Him?

I want us to spend our time today looking at two sets of verses which speak in a powerful and practical way to each person here today. The intent is that we see the events of our average day in a different light; that we determine to “open our spiritual eyes” and allow faith to reign.

Read Luke 4:14-30 

(Mark 6:5 NIV)  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

Jesus had been ministering in and around Capernaum for about a year, using it as His home base (see 4:13; 8:5). But the majority of the people who saw and heard Him in that region eventually fell away, manifesting their rejection either by blasé indifference or direct opposition. There were eight incidents in the life of the Lord.

Because the Lord had spent more time there than anywhere else thus far in His ministry, Capernaum was especially guilty for rejecting Him. Earlier, Jesus had scorchingly rebuked them, saying, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” Matthew 11:23.

Jesus had, in effect, pronounced a curse on Capernaum, and when He departed from there, that city’s doom was imminent. Jesus never went there again except as He passed through to minister elsewhere. He had come into the city and demonstrated power that could only have been from God. Yet the people would not have Him as Lord. Many marveled and some criticized, but few believed.

Now Capernaum’s opportunity was passed, and she entered a decline into oblivion from which she never recovered. Today the city is in virtually the same state of ruin—without houses or people—that it was a few centuries after Jesus was there. Apparently the town and the synagogue enjoyed a period of worldly prosperity for a while, but archaeological excavations show increasing pagan influence on the Jews there.

The last synagogue built in Capernaum, erected over the floor of the one where Jesus taught, was decorated with various animals and mythological figures. Having rejected the true God, the people were at the mercy of false ones.

Jesus’ home town was Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary went to live after returning from Egypt with their infant Son (2:23). It was to Nazareth that Jesus returned after His baptism and temptations (4:12-13); and we learn from Luke that the response to Him then was the same as it was on this occasion.

At first the people did not understand that Jesus was referring to Himself, because their initial response was quite favorable: “All were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:17-22).

Knowing that the people’s praise was based merely on faithless recognition of His popularity and power, Jesus began to expose their real motives. He knew they wanted Him to duplicate in Nazareth the miracles He had performed in Capernaum. And He knew that if He complied with their demand they still would not accept Him as the Messiah, because “no prophet is welcome in his home town.”

In further rebuke of their hypocrisy and faithlessness, He reminded them that in the days of Elijah God had shut up the rain in Israel for three-and-a-half years and caused a great famine. During that time the Lord showed mercy on none of the many suffering widows in Israel but showed great mercy on a Gentile widow of Zarephath.

He also reminded them that during the time of Elisha, God cleansed no lepers in Israel but did cleanse the leprosy of the Gentile Naaman of Syria (vv. 23-27). They could not have missed Jesus’ powerful, rebuking point that a believing Gentile is dearer to God than an unbelieving Jew.

Religious people may accept Jesus on a superficial level, but they do not want to bow before Him as Lord.

Outside of Nazareth, the news about Jesus was spreading, and so far it was favorable: He was “praised by all” (4:15). Probably at this point, the people of Nazareth were proud of their hometown boy who was becoming famous. A few may have grumbled, “Why doesn’t He come to Nazareth and show His stuff here? Does He think He’s too good for us now?” But others said, “He’s just too busy. But He will come and we’ll see if the rumors are true.”

Sure enough, He soon came into town, and everyone turned out at the synagogue that Sabbath.

From Jesus’ second, and similar, encounter with His former neighbors in Nazareth we can learn four important truths about unbelief: it blurs the obvious, builds up the irrelevant, blinds to the truth, and blocks the supernatural.

Unbelief Blurs the Obvious

The people at the synagogue in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth immediately recognized Him as the person they had known as a boy and young man. They also remembered that less than a year earlier He had worked miracles in other parts of Galilee, had impressed them with His great wisdom, and had so angered them by exposing their hypocrisy and unbelief that they tried to throw Him over the cliff to His death.

He taught about regeneration, worship, evangelism, sin, salvation, morality, divorce, murder, service, servanthood, pride, hate, love, anger, jealousy, hypocrisy, prayer, fasting, true and false doctrine, true and false teachers, the Sabbath, the law, discipleship, grace, blasphemy, signs and wonders, repentance, humility, dying to self, obedience to God, and countless other subjects. He taught the truth about everything that pertained to spiritual life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

Even though it came right out of their own Scriptures, they were offended when Jesus brought up the stories from Elijah and Elisha’s ministries and applied it to them. The point of both stories was the same. Israel was at a low point of idolatry and moral corruption. God told Elijah to pray that it would not rain, and so a famine came over the land. That meant that Elijah himself needed food. God could have picked any one of many widows in the land as the place to send Elijah for sustenance, but instead, God sent him to a widow in Sidon, a Gentile. Through her, God provided both for her and for the prophet. Similarly, in Elisha’s time, there were many lepers in Israel whom God could have cleansed. But instead, God chose to heal a pagan man, Naaman the Syrian, a general in the army of Israel’s enemy.

These stories offended the religious crowd in Nazareth for two reasons. First, they were offended because the stories clearly teach that God sovereignly chooses those on whom He bestows His mercy, and that no one can demand His grace, because all are undeserving sinners. If God chooses to go outside Israel and bestow His blessing on a widow in Sidon or a general in Syria, while withholding His blessing from those in Israel, He is free to do that.

Proud man will accuse the Almighty God of being unfair because He does not pour out His grace on everyone, as if everyone was deserving of it! But the Bible teaches that there is none righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10), and that God owes nothing but judgment to all sinners. If He chooses to show His mercy to some, that is His prerogative as the Sovereign Potter, but Scripture plainly declares, “He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Rom. 9:18). And if proud man cries, “That’s not fair,” Scripture’s answer is, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (Rom. 9:20). That doctrine is offensive to religious people who think that they are deserving of God’s blessings because of their basic goodness.

The second reason these stories offended the religious crowd was that they show that God is pleased to bestow His blessings on pagans as well as the religious. The widow in Sidon and Naaman the Syrian were both pagans, outside of the covenant blessings of God’s chosen people. There is a wrong way to apply the doctrine of election, namely, to grow conceited and think, “I’m really some­thing because I’m one of God’s chosen people. But that person is not as good as me, because he is a pagan.” The proper application of the doctrine should fill us with humility, gratitude and fear (Rom. 11:17-22). When we realize that God shows His mercy to one kind of person only—sinners—we who know God should reach out with compassion to those who are lost.

Let’s apply this point to ourselves: It’s easy to accept Jesus on a superficial level. We hear that God loves us and that Jesus cares for all our needs, and that’s true. So, we welcome Him into our lives. But at some point early on we begin to get a bit uncomfortable as we realize that Jesus’ teaching confronts our pride and self-righteousness. Rather than building up our self-esteem, Jesus begins shining the light of His holiness into the dark, hidden closets of our soul. We begin to see that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18).

At this point, you have a crucial decision to make. You can dodge the hard truths of the Bible, either by throwing out the whole thing or, as many people do, by finding a church where you hear more soothing, comfortable messages. Or, God’s way is that we face the hard truth about ourselves and submit to Jesus as Lord.

In addition to teaching with great wisdom, Jesus had displayed supernatural power that all but banished sickness and disease from Palestine and had performed miracles of nature that astonished the most hardened skeptics. At the very least, it should have been clear that Jesus was a prophet of God unequaled by any of the Old Testament era. How could the people not believe Jesus was from God, when only divine power and wisdom could explain the greatness of what He said and did?

Like the scribes and Pharisees, the people of Jesus’ home town synagogue refused to make the logical and obvious connection between His power and His divinity because they were willfully unbelieving. The seed of the gospel fell on the hard-packed soil of sin-loving hearts into which God’s truth could not make the slightest penetration.

Those who heard and saw Jesus did not reject Him for lack of evidence but in spite of overwhelming evidence. They did not reject Him because they lacked the truth but because they rejected the truth. They refused forgiveness because they wanted to keep their sins. They denied the light because they preferred darkness. The reason for rejecting the Lord has always been that men prefer their own way to His.

When a person willfully rejects the Lord, even the most compelling evidence will not convince Him of divine truth. Cultists and liberal theologians who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the divine Son of God can find countless ways to discount or explain away the most obvious truths of Scripture. They then congratulate themselves for their intellectualism in explaining Scripture without accepting its truths, for seeming to honor Christ without believing in Him or in what He taught, and for calling themselves by His name while denying His divine nature and power.

 UNBELIEF BUILDS UP THE IRRELEVANT

Instead of accepting the obvious and overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the people of Nazareth focused their attention on the irrelevant. It was indeed surprising to see someone they had watched grow up and with whom they had gone to synagogue all His life suddenly come on the scene as a great leader—with no formal training and no recognition by the accepted religious hierarchy

The facts that Jesus was the carpenter’s son and the Son of Mary, that He had brothers named James and Joseph and Simon and Judas who everyone in  Nazareth knew, and that He had sisters who still lived there were irrelevant to the issues of His being the Messiah or not.

The fact that the citizens of Nazareth did not regard Jesus and His family as being out of the ordinary completely undercuts myths that attribute bizarre miracles to Him when He was a child. One story maintains that whenever He found a bird with a broken wing, He would stroke it gently and send it flying on its way healed and healthy. This text completely mitigates against such fabrications.

It is tragic that small issues can be used as great excuses for not believing. The people of Nazareth were like people throughout the history of the church who can find every foolish reason to justify their rejection of the gospel.

They don’t like the attitude of the one who witnesses to them; they think most church people are hypocrites; they think the preacher is too loud or too soft, too stuffy or too overbearing; and the services are too formal or too informal. They are offended at the slightest things Christians do and construe the insignificant as being all important. They put up one smoke screen after another to excuse their unwillingness to believe the clear and demanding claims and promises of Christ.

UNBELIEF BLINDS TO THE TRUTH

Took offense is from skandalizoô, which has the basic idea of causing to stumble or trip up and is the term from which our English scandalize is derived. Jesus’ friends and former neighbors were offended by His claims. They were offended by His ordinary background, by the commonness of His family, the limits of His formal training, His lack of official religious status, and many other irrelevant or secondary issues.

Until a person is willing to have the hard ground of his heart plowed up by God’s truth and to confess and forsake his sin, he will be offended by the gospel. Until a person faces his sin in penitence, the truth of the gospel is hidden from him, and the blessing of the gospel is lost to him.

Unbelief Blocks the Supernatural

Some of Jesus’ miracles were done in direct response to personal faith; but many others, perhaps most of them, were done regardless of any specific expression of an individual’s faith. All of the miracles were done to strengthen the faith of those who believed in Him; but although God can perform miracles where there is no belief, He chose not to perform them where there was hard and willful unbelief.

Example of our lost opportunities: work hard on a Bring a Friend Day or a weekend meeting with a special speaker…pray for success and ask God to send us seekers…yet we do not greet visitors as we should and don’t follow-up those who come…will God send us seekers IF we are going to mistreat them?

Thus, God’s way is that …

B. We must accept Jesus as He claimed to be, as both Lord and Christ.

Jesus did not beat around the bush with these people. After reading Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus plainly declared, “Today this Scrip­ture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” That’s a staggering claim! Jesus is saying that Isaiah’s words, written over 700 years before, apply to Him. Look at what these words proclaim: Jesus claims to be speaking and acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit (4:18). By the way, in this verse you have all three members of the Trinity: the Lord (God the Father), the Spirit, and the Messiah. The word “anointed” is the Greek word for Christ, of which the Hebrew is Messiah. Jesus is claiming to be the Lord’s Christ or Messiah. He claims to be the “sent one.” He did not come of His own initiative, but He was sent by the Father to bring God’s salvation to the world. The terms “poor, captives, blind, and downtrodden” primarily have a spiritual meaning. Note that Jesus claims not only to be preaching the gospel, but also to be bringing it to pass: He is setting free those who are downtrodden.

In Isaiah, “the favorable year of the Lord” is a reference to the Jewish year of Jubilee, where debts were released and slaves were set free. It was a spiritual picture of the day or time of God’s salvation. Jesus not merely proclaims the good news as God’s anointed prophet. He is the good news, the One who would offer Himself as God’s sin-bearer, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The word “favorable” (4:18) in Greek is the same word that is translated “welcome” (4:24). In other words, even though Jesus proclaimed the favorable news of God’s salvation, the people did not favorably accept Him as God’s anointed prophet. They were acknowledging Him as Joseph’s son, but they refused to recognize Him as God’s Son, which even Satan acknowledged (4:3, 9)!

The point is, to accept God’s good news, you must accept Jesus as He is and as He claimed to be, as Lord and Christ. If you accept Him merely as a nice Savior who helps you to be happy, but you do not submit to Him as Lord, you are not truly accepting Him. If you accept Him as a Savior for others, but do not confess your own need for a Savior from your sins, you are not truly accepting Him. Jesus came as God’s anointed Savior and Lord, and we must accept Him as He claimed to be. That leads to the second reason religious people often reject Jesus:

2. Religious people reject Christ because they do not want to admit their sinful, desperate condition.

The folks in Jesus’ audience liked to think of themselves as basically good people. After all, they were Jews, not pagan sinners! Didn’t the fact that they were in the synagogue that day show that they were good people? Then along comes this young whippersnapper who implies that God’s message is for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the downtrodden! They had more self-respect than to see themselves like that! And then He goes even farther and implies that He is going to take God’s blessings to the Gentiles! “Of all the nerve! After all we did for Him when He was just a boy growing up here in Nazareth!”

Of course the irony is that even though they saw themselves as basically good, religious folks, they got so angry at Jesus’ convicting message that they left their worship service in a rage with the intent of killing Him! Jesus let them lead Him as far as the brow of the hill to reveal the murderous intent of their hearts. Then, whether miraculously or simply by the power of His commanding person, He walked away from them. But through this they should have seen that they were not basically good people at heart. They were good as long as no one confronted their true heart condition. But as soon as Jesus exposed them for what they really were, they rose up to destroy Him.

What is the heart condition of every person, religious or pagan, according to God’s Word? We are poor, spiritually destitute, bankrupt before God. We cannot buy our way into heaven because we have nothing to offer God. We can only receive from Him. We are captives, spiritually enslaved to sin. We are under the domain of the kingdom of darkness, unable to free ourselves from the wicked tyrant who rules this evil world and unable to extricate ourselves from the sin that holds us in its power.

Furthermore, we are blind, spiritually unable to see the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ unless He opens our eyes. Just as a blind person has no power or ability in himself to open his eyes unless God performs a miracle, so the spiritually blind sinner cannot do anything in himself to remedy his condition unless God sovereignly and powerfully opens the eyes of his heart. Finally, we are downtrodden. The word means “shattered” or “broken in pieces.” Alfred Plummer (The Gospel According to St. Luke [Charles Scribner’s Sons], p. 122) says that this strong expression “is here applied to those who are shattered in fortune and broken in spirit.”

The main thing that keeps religious people from accepting Jesus is their pride that hinders them from seeing their true condition in God’s sight. The church in Laodicea was there. Their assessment of themselves was, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” God’s assessment was, “You are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). But the good news is, when God opens your eyes to see your true condition before Him, that’s the first step toward receiving the good news. If you know that you’re destitute and someone offers you a million dollars as a free gift, that’s good news! If you know that you’re spiritually poor, and God offers freely to forgive all your sins through Jesus Christ, that’s the greatest news in the whole world!

Conclusion

I conclude with two applications. First, if you are familiar with Jesus you must be especially careful to apply His teaching to your own heart.

If you grew up in the church or if you’ve been in the church for years, it’s easy to grow so familiar with spiritual truth that you don’t let it affect your own heart. You begin thinking, “Repentance is something the non-Christian needs, but me? I’m a pretty good person!” “Salvation, the tender mercies of our God—ho hum!” Before you know it, you’re right there with those lukewarm Laodiceans! You lose the sense of gratitude that ought to flood your soul when you consider God’s abundant grace.

Second, if you reject Jesus today, you may not get another opportunity to receive Him. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, so He passed through their midst and went His way. He may have returned once more, although most scholars think that this was the last time He preached in Nazareth. Rejection of the gospel can be final and fatal! It’s interesting that when Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, He stopped in the middle of a verse, after reading, “to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” The next phrase reads, “And the day of vengeance of our God.” Why did He stop there? Because in His first coming, Jesus came with the good news of salvation for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the downtrodden. The second time He will come as the Righteous Judge, bringing God’s vengeance on those who refused His offer of salvation.

In verse 21, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The phrase, “in your hearing,” points to the availability of the good news. If you’re hearing it, it is being offered to you. The word “today” points to the urgency of the good news. Today is the day of salvation. You may not have tomorrow.

Last year a man jumped from a plane and his parachute didn’t open. It took him more than a minute to fall 3,000 feet. Somehow, he survived. But what do you suppose he thought about in that long minute? Did he cry out to God? If you have not trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, you’re right where that man was. You’re free-falling toward eternity, but you won’t fare well when you hit.

Jesus offers right now to release you from the downward pull of your sin that is plunging you toward God’s judgment. If you will respond by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, then rather than going His way and leaving you, Jesus promises, “I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: The Temptations of Jesus—Luke 4


To live in this world means that you will encounter temptation.

Scripture is clear that God does not tempt us: James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
14  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
15  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. But if we want to be godly people, we must learn to resist the temptations that come at us from the world, the flesh, and the devil.

It is also clear that we are tempted through the individual desires we have within us. But we must know that to be tempted is not the same as sinning. If that were true, then Jesus would not have been sinless because He definitely was tempted by Satan.

Jesus Christ is our great example and teacher when it comes to resisting temptation. He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If we want to be like Jesus, we will be eager to learn from Him how He resisted the devil.

This account of Jesus’ temptation must have come down to the disciples and to us from Jesus Himself, since it was a private encounter. Luke uses the incident both to confirm Jesus as the righteous Son of God at the outset of His public ministry and to teach us how to follow Him in obedience to the Father.

We must recognize, then, that the term “temptation” is employed in two very different senses, which can be seen from the temptation of our Lord. Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God.

Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous (example of Job).

Satan knew from the beginning of history that a man would come to destroy him. I believe that Satan had rightly concluded that Jesus had come to destroy him.

The demons knew so as well. They cried out, “What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34).

Satan’s claims cannot be taken at face value, for Satan is a liar by nature (John 8:44).

Satan’s claim is only partially true, at best, and thus his offer is exceedingly hollow. It is worth noting that throughout the Bible Satan is continually offering others things which are not his own.

He offers Adam and Eve the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it was not his to give. Our Lord, on the other hand, offers what He possesses, and the life which He offers is that which He has obtained at the cost of His own blood.

Satan had asked for only one thing, but that one thing was the most crucial act of all. He asked to be worshipped. No doubt Satan attempted to make this act of worship seem trivial. Perhaps it would be done in private, and for just a moment in time.

Our Lord understood the importance of worship, however. It was important because worship was to be directed toward God alone. To worship Satan would have been a direct violation of God’s Word.

More than this, worship was a symbolic act, an act which implied and required further action. Worship was something like the act of signing one’s name on a piece of paper. This does not seem very important, unless that piece of paper is a bill of sale, a contract, a blank check, or enlistment papers for the army.

So it was with worship. Worship is an act which acknowledged that the person or thing bowed down to is greater than the worshipper. That which is worshipped is of greater worth, and has greater power and authority than the worshipper.

Our Lord’s words inform Satan that He knew that an act of worship would have constituted Him a servant of Satan. Thus, by getting Jesus to worship him Satan would have made Jesus a subordinate, and would have preserved his freedom and prolonged his kingdom. Jesus, knowing these things, refused Satan’s proposition and let him know that He understood the implications of what he had proposed.

Jesus’ victory over Satan shows Him to be the righteous Son of God and shows us how to overcome temptation.

1. We must be wise to the schemes of Satan.

It is clear that Jesus believed in and the Bible teaches the reality of a personal evil spirit called Satan (“adversary”) or the devil (“slanderer” or “accuser”). Evil is not just an impersonal force. The devil and the demons are angelic beings who rebelled against God and now are behind the evil in this world.

While the devil is a powerful and intelligent being, he is not omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent. While his final doom is secure, for the present he is a powerful and cunning adversary of the saints. We must not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Here we learn …

SATAN HITS AT THE OPPORTUNE MOMENT.

After His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Some say that Jesus went there deliberately to engage Satan in this conflict, but I believe that He went there to commune with the Father so that He would be clear regarding His calling as He began His ministry.

For 40 days Jesus fasted as He drew near to the Father. This reminds us of Moses who spent 40 days without food or water on Mount Sinai with the Lord before he received the Law (Exod. 24:18; 34:28). Elijah went 40 days on the strength of the food given to him by the angel to Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). Both of these fasts and Jesus’ fast were miraculous events, because no man can go 40 days without food or water, especially if he is physically active, as Elijah was.

The Greek grammar of verse 2 would indicate that Jesus was tempted over the duration of the 40 days, but the three temptations described may have occurred at the culmination of the period when His hunger became intense.

It was precisely when Jesus became hungry that the devil appeared with his temptation to turn the stone to bread. Satan hit Jesus with this temptation at the precise moment that Jesus was hungry. He always works like that—he hits you when you’re down. He bides his time until you are vulnerable, and then he moves in with his subtle suggestion of evil.

SATAN SUBTLY MIXES TRUTH AND ERROR IN AN ATTEMPT TO DECEIVE.

In Luke’s second temptation, Satan somehow shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Perhaps this was a graphic verbal description or a vision. We know that it was not a literal view from a high point, because no point is high enough to see all the world’s kingdoms.

Satan proceeds to offer all this domain and its glory to Jesus, claiming that “it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” All he asks is that Jesus bow in worship before him.

Satan’s offer, like all his offers, was a mixed bag of truth and error. Jesus later calls Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Paul calls him “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). But the Bible is also clear, and Satan cleverly alludes to it even here, that God alone sets up kings and grants authority to whomever He wills (Dan. 4:17, 25).

Satan’s authority is at best delegated and temporary. The Bible is clear, as Jesus answers, that God alone is to be worshiped and served. But Satan mixes up the truth of his powerful authority with the error of worshiping him.

SATAN PROMISES PLEASURE, BUT HE DOESN’T MENTION THE INEVITABLE PAIN.

Like a clever salesman, Satan sets out his wares without mentioning the price tag. He always shows the pleasures of sin (which are real), but he doesn’t mention the stiff consequences that inevitably follow. “Worship me and I’ll give you dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth.”

Sounds good! But he fails to mention that Jesus will then be the servant of Satan, not of the Father, that the holy union between Father and Son will be forever broken and that Jesus’ mission as Savior will be ruined.

Satan still works that way: “Give in and enjoy the pleasures of sex like all your friends are doing! Why deprive yourself? Life is short, this may be your only opportunity.”

He doesn’t mention the fact that fornication and adultery are sins, the risk of disease, or pregnancy, or the spiritual and emotional consequences of giving yourself to someone outside of God’s design of lifelong marriage….and the damage to spouses and children when it is revealed.

SATAN TRIES TO GET US TO MEET LEGITIMATE NEEDS OR GOALS IN ILLEGITIMATE WAYS.

Hunger is a legitimate need, but for Jesus to use His power independently of the Father to meet His need would have been wrong. Being Lord of all the kingdoms of this earth was a legitimate goal for Jesus as the Son of God, but bowing before Satan to achieve that goal was wrong.

Throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and trusting God to spare Him from injury sounds like a great display of faith, which is a good thing. But actually it would have been presumption, which is sin.

Satan’s goal in all three temptations was to get Jesus to act independently of the Father rather than to submit to the will of God, which included the cross.

It would have been a tempting shortcut to gain the glory of ruling all the kingdoms of this world without the agony of the cross.

We need to be careful to follow biblical methods as well as goals. We should learn from our Lord Jesus how to be wise to Satan’s schemes.

We see Jesus living in total dependence on the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), who had descended on Him at His baptism. Jesus thus lived as the perfect man in perfect obedience to the Father as He depended totally upon the Holy Spirit.

Luke organizes his genealogy of Jesus backward, so that it ends with “Adam, the son of God” (3:38). Then, just three verses later we encounter Satan telling Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” In the Greek, there is no doubt in Satan’s challenge. He acknowledges Jesus to be the Son of God. Luke obviously wants us to see a contrast between Adam, who as man was supposed to reflect the image of God, but failed; and, Jesus, the true Son of God who was victorious over Satan’s temptations.

Where the first Adam was defeated by Satan, the second Adam triumphed. Also, there is a contrast between the settings of the two incidents. Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in a garden where they had plenty. Jesus resisted turning the stone into bread in a barren wilderness where He was very hungry.

Could Jesus have sinned? In fact, how could the Son of God even be tempted? God cannot be tempted by evil, so in what sense was Jesus tempted? Here we plunge into a deep mystery where ultimately we must back off without total resolution. The mystery centers on how one person can be both fully God and fully man at the same time.

It is helpful to distinguish between temptation and testing. Since the fall, we can be tempted to evil by our own sinful desires from within or by Satan from without.

God never tempts anyone to evil (James 1:13). But, every temptation is also a test, where God tries us to reveal what is in our hearts (Deut. 8:2; 2 Chron. 32:31).

Also, we can sinfully put God to the test, demanding that He prove Himself (Luke 4:12, Deut. 6:16). Here Satan was tempting Jesus from without, but the temptation was also a test that proved that Jesus was the obedient Son of God who would not put God to the test.

3. We must be armed with God’s strategies for the saints.

Jesus shows us five strategies for overcoming temptation:

BE MUCH ALONE WITH GOD.

Not only during these 40 days, but also at other times, Jesus would get away from the crowds and even from the disciples to spend time alone with the Father (5:16). If Jesus needed such times, how much more do we.

Time alone with God does not prevent temptation, but it will strengthen us to overcome it.

If you are consistently in God’s Word and in prayer, you will be forewarned and forearmed for standing against the schemes of the devil.

B. BE PREPARED TO BE TEMPTED, ESPECIALLY AFTER A VICTORY.

Jesus was tempted immediately following His baptism, when the Father affirmed Him from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove.

Jerome said, “Baptism does not drown the devil.” If Jesus’ baptism did not prevent His being tempted, neither will ours. We must walk with God every day and be especially on guard after a time of spiritual victory.

C. BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The filling of the Spirit will not insulate you from temptation, but if you walk in the Spirit, you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).

It does not say that you will not have such desires, but rather that you will not fulfill them. Each day we should yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and walk in conscious dependence on Him.

  1. BE ARMED WITH SCRIPTURE.

Each time Satan attacked, Jesus answered with Scripture, specifically with quotations from Deuteronomy. To use Scripture as Jesus did, we must commit it to memory.

We will not always have a Bible and concordance with us when we are tempted. But God will bring to our mind appropriate Scripture to ward off the enemy’s attacks.

But, again, be careful! Satan can also quote the Bible for his own purposes! The main rule of biblical interpretation is to compare Scripture with Scripture, letting the Bible interpret itself.

You cannot properly apply Scripture until you properly interpret it.

I recommend that if you struggle with a particular sin, write down all the verses on it you can find and commit them to memory.

E. BE READY FOR FURTHER ATTACKS.

As long as we are in this body, we cannot claim complete and final victory over the world, the flesh, or the devil. Constant vigilance is required.

By the way, the Bible commands us to flee certain sins, but to resist the devil.

Conclusion- A little girl was asked if Satan ever tempted her to do wrong. “Oh, yes,” she replied, “but when he knocks at the door of my heart, I just pray, ‘Lord Jesus, please go to the door for me!’”

“What happens then?” she was asked. “Oh, everything turns out all right. When Satan sees Jesus, he runs away every time!”

In her simple faith, that little girl realized that even the strongest Christian is no match for the devil. Only Jesus has defeated him, so we must be strong in the strength of our Lord.

Jesus’ victory over Satan proves that He is the righteous Son of God, mighty to save all who call upon Him. If we trust in Him as Savior and walk in His strength each day, we can overcome temptation when it hits, as surely it will.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: Pointing People to Christ -Luke 3:7-19


If you are a Christian, then one of your deepest longings is to see others come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And yet who among us has not felt tongue-tied when an opportunity to tell someone about Christ was staring us in the face?

I believe that it is very helpful for every Christian to receive training in how to share the good news about Jesus Christ. While I cannot provide such training in a single message, I do want to go over some essentials that we must cover if we want to point people to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The first item is our willingness to look for opportunities…and there needs to be someone interested.

John the Baptist’s life and ministry pointed people to Jesus Christ. As John 1:8 explains of John, “He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.” In our text, we see how John pointed people to Christ.

It is significant that at the beginning of the passage, people are speculating about whether John himself might be the Christ. But by the end, where Luke reports Jesus’ baptism, even though John was the one doing the baptizing, he isn’t even mentioned!

John has completely faded from view and, as with the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, we are left with Jesus alone and a voice from heaven confirming Him.

Even so, if we want to be used by God to point people to the Savior, we must fade from view and leave the person with Jesus alone, along with the divine testimony, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” That God the Father is well-pleased with God the Son is at the foundation of the gospel message we are to proclaim.

Luke uses this section to take John, the forerunner, off the scene and to authenticate the person of Jesus Christ, whose official ministry is inaugurated in Luke 4:14. The genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38) and His temptation (4:1-13) also serve to authenticate Him.

Darrell Bock (Luke [Baker], 1:345) comments, “The emphasis here is that heaven has spoken. God has revealed his choice. Much as a political party puts its stamp on a presidential candidate, so here God has shown who will accomplish his plan….”

The usual response to any demand that the Israelites of that day should repent was to the effect that they did not need to repent, since they were sons of Abraham. The fact that all the promises were not to Abraham’s fleshly descendants, but to his spiritual seed (the people who were of the character and faith of Abraham), was unknown to the Israel of that generation.

Paul spelled it out in Romans; but here, the nigh impossible task of enlightenment fell on John the Baptist. He succeeded in such instances as John the apostle, and others who became followers of Jesus; but the majority of fleshly Israel only scoffed at the truth.

The testimony of heaven is that Jesus is the beloved Son. When God speaks, the reader is to listen. From John’s ministry and from the Father’s testimony, we can learn three elements that we must employ if we want to point people to Christ:

   Pointing people to Christ requires confronting their sin.

Keep in mind that John did much more than preach against sin; he also proclaimed the Gospel. The word preached in Luke 3:18 gives us the English word evangelize (“to preach the Good News”). John introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and told people to trust in Him. John was only the best man at the wedding: Jesus was the Bridegroom (John 3:25-30). John rejoiced at the opportunity of introducing people to the Saviour, and then getting out of the way.

 

Luke 3:7-17 (ESV) 7  He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8  Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
9  Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10  And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”
11  And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
12  Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”
13  And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
14  Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
15  As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,
16  John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

As we have seen, John’s message is summed up as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ are at the heart of the gospel. A person who does not see and feel himself to be a sinner has no reason to need a Savior.

If I came up to you and said, “I have great news! The governor has just offered you a pardon from prison,” you would not be very thrilled with that news, and you might even be offended. Why? You are not guilty of any crime deserving of prison. But, if you have just been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, my announcement would be the most welcome news you could imagine.

If you walk up to a person who is not a Christian and say, “I have great news! God loves you and Jesus Christ died for your sins,” the person will not appreciate your message and he might even get offended. He will think, “Of course God loves me! God is love and I’m a basically loveable person! But as for this sin stuff, I’m only human and I have my faults, but I’m not that bad of a person. Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins?”

How do you get a person who thinks of himself as basically good to see the utter sinfulness of his own heart so that he will see his need for the Savior? God’s method is to preach His perfect Law to the sinner so that he sees how utterly he has failed to keep that Law. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” so that a man sees that he is accountable before God (Rom. 3:19, 20). Thus the Law becomes “our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).

John is prophesying the impact that Jesus’ ministry would have, forcing people to choose either to follow Jesus (and therefore receive God’s Spirit) or to oppose Jesus (and receive a fiery punishment).

Luke 3:19-20 (NIV) But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20  Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

John the Baptist preached the Law even to Herod Antipas. Herod had divorced his own wife and seduced Herodias, the wife of his half-brother, who was also his own niece. By so doing, he was guilty of both adultery and incest.

John confronted Herod with this violation of God’s Law, along with other wicked things that he had done. We don’t know if John did this in a private interview with Herod, through a sermon when Herod was present in the audience, or if John’s public rebuke of Herod in his absence got back to him. But John boldly proclaimed that the ruler was under the same Law of God as the common person.

Sadly, Herod did not respond with repentance, but rather added to his many sins by locking John up in prison and later executing him. But in spite of the consequences, John didn’t soften the message, because he knew that neither Herod nor anyone else would come to Christ unless he was first convicted of his sin.

Herod’s treatment of John should alert us to the fact that we may not be warmly welcomed when we bring up the matter of a person’s sin. But even so, we must remember that we do no one a favor by tiptoeing around the sin issue.

Modern evangelism has fallen into the trap of marketing the gospel as the way to have a happy life, but we often minimize or sidestep the serious nature of sin. But until a person comes under the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that he sees that he is justly guilty before God, he will not appreciate God’s grace that was shown to us in the cross of Christ. Being forgiven little, he will love Christ little.

The Bible tells us that sinners are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Eph. 4:18, 19).

Obviously, we cannot break through all the defenses that sinners have erected to justify themselves as they continue their course of sin. Only God by His mighty power can break through their hardened hearts and reveal Christ to their souls. He does it primarily through His Word, both written and preached.

Thus one of the best ways you can confront a sinner with his sin is to get him to read the New Testament. He won’t be five chapters into Matthew until he reads that if he has been angry with his brother, he has broken the commandment not to murder.

If he has lusted after a woman in his heart, he has broken God’s commandment against adultery. But remember, you are not really pointing a person to Jesus Christ unless you help him to see that he is a guilty sinner, under the just condemnation of God’s holy Law.

2. Pointing people to Christ requires warning of the reality of the coming judgment.

John the Baptist made it clear that the coming of Jesus the Messiah would cause a division among people. Some would be wheat gathered into His barn, but others would be chaff which He would burn up with unquenchable fire (3:17). This illustration was familiar to all of John’s hearers. When a farmer harvested his crop, he would thresh the grain with a heavy sledge that separated the kernel of wheat from the outer shell or chaff. Then he would take a shovel-like winnowing fork and throw the wheat and chaff into the air when there was a breeze. The chaff would blow to the side, while the heavier wheat would fall to the ground. The chaff would be swept up for burning.

It is a picture of God’s coming judgment. There will be only two destinies. Either by God’s grace through the new birth, you become wheat and bear fruit unto eternal life; or, by remaining hardened in your sin, you live a life that is fruitless in light of God’s purposes and you will go into unquenchable fire. The Greek word for “unquenchable” is asbestos. God uses the most frightening imagery possible to warn us that the torments of that place of eternal punishment are so awful that no one would dare risk going there!

Along with playing down the seriousness of sin, modern evangelicalism often sidesteps the horrors of hell. The mood of our culture is tolerance, love, and forgiveness. As a result, when we talk to sinners about the gospel, we feel like we have to apologize for God and skirt around the unpleasant matter of hell.

The dominant theme of our message is, “God loves you just the way you are.” But the Bible clearly warns that “he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

In personal witnessing, people need to know that if they do not repent and believe in Jesus Christ, they are simply storing up wrath for themselves in the day of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5). While this may be difficult news, it is ultimately good news.

Note Luke 3:18: John’s warnings of judgment are described as his preaching the good news to the people. If it is true that God’s awful judgment is ahead, then even though it may not be pleasant to think about, it is eternally good news to tell people that God has provided the way of escape. We have not told them the gospel if we dodge the warning of God’s coming judgment.

Again, one of the best ways of communicating this is simply to let the person read the Bible. Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else. Let the person read Jesus’ words, so that you get out of the way and he stands face to face with the Word of God. The idea that basically decent people will all go to heaven someday apart from repentance and faith in Christ is radically opposed to the Word of God. We must warn sinners of the coming judgment.

John 3:17 (ESV)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
10  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
12  waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

Romans 1:18-21 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

     Acts 17:22-31 (ESV) So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.
23  For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
25  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
26  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
27  that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
28  for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29  Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,
31  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

3. Pointing people to Christ requires exalting His supremacy over all.

A. We must humble ourselves.

If we want to point sinners to Jesus, we must humble ourselves so that they do not stumble over us. Sometimes we Christians come across to unbelievers as if we are not sinners. They usually smell the hypocrisy and turn away in disgust. We need to let lost people know that by nature, we are the same as they are. We are just beggars telling other beggars where they can find the Bread of Life.

B. We must exalt Jesus Christ as supreme.

By saying that he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal thong, John was acknowledging the inherent holiness of Jesus’ person. Jesus repeatedly claimed that He was obedient to the Father’s will and spoke only what the Father commanded (John5:19, 30; 8:28, 29). As the sinless Son of God, only Jesus is worthy to bear our sins. We must lift Him up as the all-powerful and holy One.

The point is, Jesus is the Person who by His coming divides all humanity into two eternal camps. Either you repent of your sins and believe in Him, resulting in His giving you the Holy Spirit to empower you and purge sin out of your life. Or, you go on in your sins and die in them, facing the terrifying fire of eternal judgment.

Luke emphasizes that after the baptism, while Jesus was praying, heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and a voice came out of heaven affirming, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

The fact that heaven was opened shows that in Jesus, God was breaking into human history. The Father’s being pleased with His beloved Son assures us that He is satisfied with His offering Himself on the cross for our sins.

When you bear witness, always bring people back to the exalted person and work of Jesus Christ. If they bring up objections or questions, answer them briefly if you must, but steer the conversation back to Jesus Christ. If we lift Him up, He will draw men to Himself (John 12:32).

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
2  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
3  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Conclusion

Even if you have not seen the popular movie,“ Titanic”, you know the basic story. The supposedly unsinkable ship hit an iceberg on her maiden voyage, sending 1,517 people to their watery graves. What you may not know is that most, if not all, could have been saved.

Another ship, the Californian, had passed within sight of the Titanic and made radio contact at 11 p.m. At 11:30, the captain and wireless operator on the Californian went to bed. Ten minutes later, the Titanic hit the iceberg. Although the officer on duty on the Californian saw the distress rockets from the Titanic, he wasn’t sure what they meant and he couldn’t arouse the sleepy captain. A report testified that if the Californian had responded, many, if not all, of the lives that were lost could have been saved.

We may condemn the captain of the Californian who slept while 1,500 people perished nearby. But aren’t we often guilty of the same thing if we’re complacent while people around us perish? We need to be sensitive. I’m not suggesting that we use offensive methods.

But we must not hold back from warning people about sin and judgment. We must tell them about the supremacy of Jesus Christ and how they must trust in Him alone as their Savior from the wrath to come.

I pray that we all would join John the Baptist in pointing people to Christ, even if it costs us as it did cost John.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: #3 The Best News in the World – Luke 2:1-20


Luke 2 may well be the most familiar and beloved portion in Luke’s gospel. Our text tells us the best news in the world, but two factors make it difficult for people to appreciate it.

First, the story is perhaps the most widely known story in history. As a result, many people, even Christians, shrug it off as not being especially exciting or relevant to the problems they are facing.

Second, many people do not realize what dire straits they are in regarding their standing before God and their eternal destiny. So when they read the familiar story that a Savior has been born in the city of Bethlehem, they yawn and say, “That’s nice. What’s for dinner?”

Not seeing their desperate need for salvation, they fail to appreciate the fact that this story is the best news in all of history.

A couple of years ago, Moody Magazine (Jan./Feb., 1996) reported that 49 percent of professing Christians agree that “all good people, whether they consider Jesus Christ to be Savior or not, will live in heaven after they die.” If that opinion is true, then the story of the birth of Jesus may warm your heart and make you feel good. But it won’t be news that you cannot live without.

However, if the Bible is correct in stating that all people have sinned and apart from Christ they are under God’s condemnation, then the news that the Savior has been born is hardly just nice! It is the best news in the world and it is absolutely crucial!

Dr. Luke gives us three glimpses into the early years of the Lord Jesus Christ His birth drew Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem (vv. 1-7). Luke is the only gospel writer who related the events he recorded to world history. His account was addressed to a predominantly Greek audience that would have been interested in and familiar with the political situation.

Augustus Caesar was ruling, but God was in charge, for He used Caesar’s edict to move Mary and Joseph 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His Word. Rome took a census every fourteen years for both military and tax purposes, and each Jewish male had to return to the city of his fathers to record his name, occupation, property, and family.

God had promised that the Saviour would be a human, not an angel (Gen. 3:15; Heb. 2:16), and a Jew, not a Gentile (Gen. 12:1-3; Num. 24:17). He would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and the family of David (2 Sam. 7:1-17), born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) in Bethlehem,’ the city of David (Micah 5:2).

All of this occurred just as the Scriptures said, and Caesar unknowingly played an important part.

By the decree of Emperor Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for his birth (Micah 5:2), even though his parents did not live there. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because Joseph was descended from the house and family of David.

Old Testament prophets predicted often that the Messiah would be born in David’s royal line.

At this point, Joseph and Mary were engaged. The two were living together, but they abstained from sexual relations until Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).

His birth drew the angels from heaven (vv. 8-14). How amazed the angels must have been when they saw the Creator born as a creature, the Word coming as a speechless baby.

The first announcement of the Messiah’s birth was given by an angel to some anonymous shepherds. By visiting the shepherds, the angel revealed the grace of God toward mankind. Shepherds were really outcasts in Israel. Their work not only made them ceremonially unclean, but it kept them away from the temple for weeks at a time so that they could not be made clean.

First, one angel appeared and gave the glad announcement; and then a chorus of angels joined him and gave an anthem of praise. For the first time in centuries, the glory of God returned to earth.

The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances.

His birth drew the shepherds from the fields (vv. 15-20). The verb found in Luke 2:16 means “found after a search.” The shepherds knew what to look for: a newborn Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And they found Him! They worshiped Him and marveled at God’s grace and goodness and the miracle He had wrought for them.

Consider five aspects of this good news:

1. The good news about Christ the Savior is historically true.

This needs to be emphasized in our day. So many legends have become intertwined with this story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history.

It makes all the difference in the world. If it’s just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it. It’s your option, based on how it makes you feel. It’s a completely subjective decision, binding on no one.

But if the story is actually happened as reported by Luke, then the birth of Jesus the Savior confronts every person with some objective facts that cannot be shrugged off as personal opinion.

The fact that these events happened as reported means that God exists and that He truly broke into human history in the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of many prophecies. The fact that God actually sent a Savior implies that people without the Savior are alienated from God and desperately need to be reconciled with Him through the forgiveness of their sins.

This means that the relationship between God and His people is not based on an inward experience inside their own heads, but upon a reality that was seen, heard, and authenticated by these witnesses. It means that you don’t just believe in Jesus because it makes you feel warm and happy inside, or because He helps you face life’s problems or because you like the Christian traditions of worship.

It means that you believe the Christian message because it is true.

  1. The good news about Christ the Savior is based on His unique Person.

The angel states it plainly in verse 11: Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, is the “Savior, who is Christ [Messiah, “Anointed One”] the Lord.”

He is fully man. He was born in the city of David, to descendants of David who were there to register for their taxes. There weren’t any special royal privileges for this baby. They laid Him in a feeding trough. Jesus the Savior assumed full humanity so that He might bear the sins of the human race.

He is fully God. The angel told the shepherds that this one who had been born in Bethlehem was Christ the Lord. We must interpret this title in light of its use in the Old Testament and in light of its context in Luke.

In the Old Testament, the Lord clearly is God, Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Luke uses the same word in 2:9, where is says that the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Before moving on from this term, Lord, we must note that it implies that Jesus has authority over every person, as well as over all angelic and demonic powers.

Jesus is both Savior and Lord, which means that submitting your entire life to Him is not an option for you to consider adding to the salvation package at some later date. It is demanded by virtue of who He is, the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth!

The title, Christ, especially focuses on the fact that Jesus is the One who fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Savior.

Finally, note that this one who was born is the Savior. This implies that those He came to save are lost, alienated from God, under His just condemnation because of their sins.

  1. The good news about Christ the Savior is for all people, but especially the common person.

God chose shepherds to show that …the good news is for all people, not just for the elite. As Paul told the Corinthians, “Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

4. The good news about Christ the Savior brings light, then fear, then joy.

The events that happened to those shepherds on that historic night were symbolic of what happens to every person who responds to the good news of Christ the Savior.

First, they were sitting in the darkness of the Judean night. Coming immediately after Zacharias’ prophecy that the Sunrise from on high would “shine upon those who sit in darkness” (1:79), the story of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night is more than a coincidence. It shows a fulfillment of God’s promise. Their sitting out in that black night is a picture of every human heart without the Savior. We all sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

Then, suddenly, there was a great flash of light. An angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. It was as if a prolonged lightning flash lit up the night sky. But it was more than a physical event. It symbolized what happens to every person when the Holy Spirit illumines his or her darkened heart with the light of the gospel. Whereas before they were blind, now they see. As Isaiah prophesied, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isa. 9:2).

It’s easy to understand the shepherds’ next response: They were terrified. Sitting in darkness in a deserted place is enough by itself to make you a bit jittery. They were watching their flocks because of the danger of robbers or wolves. So they’re sitting there, kind of on edge, but also fighting drowsiness, when suddenly the sky lights up like the noonday sun, and a man who had not been there seconds before was instantly standing before them, brilliant in his appearance. Instant terror!

But, thankfully, God in His tender mercy does not leave us in that terrifying situation. The angel immediately spoke words of comfort and joy, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy …” (2:10).

5. The good news about Christ the Savior requires a personal response. They responded in several definite ways:

The response of faith. Although the text does not explicitly say that the shepherds responded by faith, it describes their response of faith. They obviously believed the words of the angel or they would not have left their sheep and gone to Bethlehem to see for themselves what the Lord had revealed to them.

The response of proclamation. “When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child” (2:17). It is “good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people” (2:10). The response of praise. “The shepherds went back glorifying and praising God” (2:20).

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: #2 Doubting our Doubts – Luke 1:18-25


The following statements were taken from official documents, newspapers, or magazines widely read in their day:

  • 1840: Anyone traveling at the speed of 30 mph would surely suffocate
  • 1878: electric lights are unworthy of serious attention
  • 1901: No possible combination can be united into a practical machine by which men shall fly
  • No doubt we have all thought in recent years that we would never have believed we could send large documents “in the air” via email, etc.

These were men and women who had doubt, expressed it, and later had to “eat their words.”

When we think of ‘doubt’ in connection with the Bible, we nearly always think of it as negative…there are warnings which ought to raise ‘red flags:’

Romans 14:23: “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”

James 1:5-8: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {6} But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. {7} For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, {8} being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I heard this statement several years ago that has stayed with me: “He who has never really doubted has never really believed.”

Doubt causes us to ask questions and get answers…it helps us analyze possible error…it is the capacity to question a proposition as long as we think that more “light on the subject” can be shed.

No faith is perfect. Because of the nature of belief, there can be no absolute certainty. This is troubling to some. This can cause us to question their standing with God:

  • “Am I really a Christian?”
  • “Am I saved, are all my sins forgiven?”
  • “Does the Lord really love me?”
  • “Can I count on Him to provide?”

Doubt can be like fear. Because of our humanity and the nature of faith, we cannot eliminate it from our lives. What we can do is make our faith greater than our doubt. We must accept doubt’s presence and live despite it.

Zacharias was there that day in the temple when Gabriel, the angel who stands in God’s very presence, appeared to him and promised to give Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, a son. He should have been ecstatic with joy. Every day for years this devout couple had prayed, “Lord, if it would be Your will, give us a son.”

But that had been years ago. Now it was just too-o-o-o late. They were both long past the time when even couples who had children were able to conceive. Zacharias had reconciled himself to reality—they were not going to have a son.

He had come to terms with God over the matter: “God is sovereign. He is free to bestow His blessings on whom He wishes. For some inscrutable reason, He has withheld that blessing from us.”

And now, Zacharias was not willing to open himself to the roller coaster of hopes and fears that he had long left behind. And so he doubted the word of the angel.

What can Zacharias teach us about the problem of doubt?

We all struggle with the problem of doubt.

A. Doubt is a problem, even for the righteous.

Zacharias was “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (1:6). Being righteous in the sight of the Lord means that his godliness was not an outward show, like the “righteousness” of the Pharisees, but a matter of the heart.

The man walked with God and he had done so for many years. The fact that such a godly man doubted shows us that none are exempt from the problem.

The son of Zacharias, John the Baptist, had a time of doubt. He was languishing in prison and he began to wonder, “If Jesus is truly the Messiah, why am I, His messenger, here in prison?” So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Then He gently rebuked John’s doubt by adding, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22, 23). Jesus went on to tell the crowd that among those born of women, there is no one greater than John. He was a godly man, but he had his time of doubt.

So doubt is a problem, even for those who are righteous in God’s sight. If godly men like Zacharias and John fell into doubt, we should be on guard, so that we do not fall.

B. Doubt does not stem from a lack of evidence, but from a lack of belief.

Have you ever talked to someone who said, “If I just saw a miracle or had a direct word from God, I would believe”? It doesn’t work that way. Here, Zacharias had an angel suddenly appear and speak a direct revelation from God, but he did not believe.

Later in Luke, the rich man in Hades pleaded with Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, so that they would not also come to that awful place of torment. Abraham replied that his brothers had Moses and the prophets. But the rich man said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” But Abraham replied, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31).

You may wonder, “How does Zacharias’ question differ from Mary’s question (Luke 1:34 (ESV) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”)” When the angel told her that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel did not confront her for doubting.

God, who sees the hidden secrets of each person’s heart, knew that Zacharias was different than Mary. Zacharias was limiting God by the normal course of human nature. He and Elizabeth were too old to have children. Case closed! But he should have acknowledged, as Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37).

So even if we’ve walked with God for years, we need to look to our hearts, which are prone to limit the Almighty by human possibilities. God has given us abundant evidence in Scripture that He is the God of the impossible. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

The biblical balance is not to waver in unbelief if God doesn’t do something the way we thought He should have. We allow God to be sovereign, but we believe that if He said He would do something, He will do it, even if it takes a different form than we had expected.

C. We know through His prophetic word that God does what He says.

Luke wants us to see that God is clearly at work in the births of these two men. He sovereignly broke into history and announced what He was about to do. Then He proceeded to do it.

This is emphasized in one other way that is a bit more obvious in the Greek text than in the English. In verse 18, Zacharias expresses the reason for his doubt by saying, “I am an old man.” It is an emphatic expression, ego eimi in Greek.

In verse 19, the angel responds by using the same emphatic expression, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you …”

It’s a deliberate contrast between the feebleness of man’s word and the power of God’s Word. It’s as if Gabriel said, “You may be an old man, unable to father a child, but I am no less than the angel who stands in God’s very presence and comes to speak His word at His command.” Thus, clearly, the word of God overcomes the word of man.

So the angel struck Zacharias dumb and, apparently, deaf (see 1:62). By doubting God’s ambassador, he was doubting God Himself. God took that seriously.

As a loving Father, He taught His erring child a lesson he would never forget. The angel specifically states Zacharias’ sin: “because you did not believe my words” (1:20).

Zacharias’ chastisement was appropriate for his sin. He shut his mouth in silence when he should have praised God, so he would be silent until the day when his lips were loosed to praise God in front of others (1:67).

Read John 20:24f

Thomas only asked for evidence to believe. He was no different than were the ten a week before.

A doubter is one who sees the evidence and still doubts. Thomas only asked for the evidence the others saw. He was of a nature that he would not be otherwise persuaded.

Jesus provided him the same evidence He gave the ten. Once again, the solution to living with doubt is to face the evidence.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2020 in Luke

 

Spending Time With Jesus: #1 Our Faith is Rooted in History Luke 1:1-4 & When God Brings Revival Luke 1:5-17


Spending Time With Jesus: Falling in love all over again

1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
2  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
3  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4  that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

If ever a man wrote a book filled with good news for everybody, Dr. Luke is that man. His key message is, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He presents Jesus Christ as the compassionate Son of man, who came to live among sinners, love them, help them, and die for them.

In this Gospel you meet individuals as well as crowds, women and children as well as men, poor people as well as rich people, and sinners along with saints. It’s a book with a message for everybody, because Luke’s emphasis is on the universality of Jesus Christ and His salvation: “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Luke has a universal emphasis…the gospel is for every class, race, and nation. Not just Gentiles, but sinners of every stripe are the focus of Luke’s gospel. He uses the word “sinners” 16 times.

By focusing on sinners, outcasts, the poor, and women (who were often disregarded in that day) and by showing that Jesus Himself, even in His birth in the stable, was rejected, Luke shows Christ to be the Savior of those whom society rejects or despises.

Luke is the only synoptic gospel to call Jesus “Savior” (2:11). He alone uses the word salvation (6 times) and 10 times he uses the word for preaching the good news, which is only used once in the other gospels.

Luke alone of the three uses the word grace (8 times) and Luke is the only Gospel writer to use the words “redemption” and “redeem” (J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book [Zondervan], 5:254).

Walter Liefeld states, “The entire Gospel of Luke pictures Jesus as reaching out to the lost in forgiveness” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 8:811).

Luke wrote his gospel to assure his acquaintance, Theophilus, of the truth concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke “wrote for people removed from the ministry of Jesus, both in geography and time, and his task was to provide them with such an account of the story of Jesus as would enable them to see that the story with which they had already become partially acquainted was a reliable basis for their faith.”

Theophilus’ name means “friend of God,” and the title, “most excellent,” seems to identify him as a ranking Roman official.

Theophilus may have been troubled by questions like, “Is the Christian faith I believed in really the truth and the only truth? If it is true, why was Jesus rejected by His people and crucified? Why are Christians being persecuted? Why have most of the Jews rejected the message, while the Gentiles are receiving it?” (Adapted from Darrell Bock, Luke [Baker Exegetical Commentary], 1:65).

It was indeed a dark day for the nation of Israel. The people had heard no prophetic Word from God for 400 years, not since Malachi had promised the coming of Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6). The spiritual leaders were shackled by tradition and, in some instances, corruption; and their king, Herod the Great, was a tyrant. He had nine (some say ten) wives, one of whom he had executed for no apparent reason. But no matter how dark the day, God always has His devoted and obedient people.

Luke’s Gospel is rooted in the facts of verifiable history.

Luke is at pains to make this clear, and it is not a trivial point. The apostle Paul links the entire Christian faith to one verifiable historical event, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is not true, says Paul, then go be a hedonist: Eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die and there’s nothing else.

But if it is true that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave, then He is Lord and we must submit our entire lives to Him.

What this means is that Christianity is not a religious philosophy based on the speculations and ideas of some great religious thinkers. Christianity is primarily about the God who created the universe miraculously invading human history in the person of Jesus Christ who uniquely revealed God to us.

Thus the great doctrines of the Bible are not matters of personal opinion or philosophical speculation. They are matters of revelation from God and therefore, they must be submitted to.

God has revealed Himself in history in the person of Jesus Christ. Luke wants us to know and believe this with absolute certainty.

How can we know that this is true? Luke mentions several things to establish the credibility of his account. First, there were many written witnesses to the life and ministry of Christ which Luke consulted (1:1). Second, Luke states that many of these written sources were eyewitnesses to the entire ministry of Jesus Christ (1:2).

In addition to all of these witnesses, Luke himself, although not an eyewitness to these things, had carefully researched the written and oral accounts to verify everything before he wrote (1:3).

Luke’s Gospel is an orderly, purposeful account of the life and ministry of the Savior.

Postmodernism is the prevailing philosophy of our day. A main tenet of this philosophy is that there is no such thing as absolute truth….truth is personal and subjective…it is not discovered, but created.

In religious and spiritual matters, especially, to say that you have the truth is viewed as arrogance because this implies that you’re right and others are wrong.

You’ve probably encountered this philosophy when you have attempted to share the gospel with someone, only to have him or her respond, “It’s great that you believe in Jesus and that it works for you. But I’m into the New Age vegetarian natural Zen approach, and it works for me.”

Spiritual truth becomes a matter of personal opinion and whatever works.

Postmodernism also lies behind the strong push toward tolerance, where doctrinal truth is played down and love and unity are magnified. It also shows itself in the emphasis on feelings over thought.

When God Brings Revival Luke 1:5-17

5  In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6  And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8  Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9  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.”

Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, year in and year out, but God has not answered? I hope that you can answer yes, because if you say no, could show that you were not persistent in your request. If you pray, you have prayed for things that God has not yet answered.

One unanswered prayer that every committed Christian should be praying is that God would send revival to our country. It is as of yet unanswered because nothing that is being described as revival today even comes close to the many examples of true revival that God has sent in times past.

True revival is not a superficial, emotional response that results in a temporary experience, but no long-term fruit of righteousness.

True revival is when the living God sovereignly and powerfully breaks into human history with the good news of His salvation.

It invariably begins with His people coming under deep conviction of sin and turning from that sin in genuine repentance. It always involves a recovery of biblical truth, especially the truth about how sinners are reconciled to a holy God.

Our text records God breaking into history with the greatest revival ever, since it involved the coming of the Savior into this world. If our nation is to be spared God’s awful judgment for our many sins, we desperately need true revival. Therefore, these verses deserve our careful attention.

There are certain conditions that are common to most revivals. While meeting the conditions does not guarantee revival, not meeting the conditions surely prohibits revival. Our text is no exception. It shows us,

While God is sovereign in bringing revival, we must be prepared to receive His sovereign grace

Zecharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were faithful, believing Jews, both from the tribe of Levi. Luke sets the scene for what follows by informing us that they had no child and that they were both advanced in years (1:7). As a priest, Zecharias would serve at the temple for two one-week periods each year, apart from the three great festivals

Because of the great number of priests, estimated at between 18,000 and 20,000, they used a system of lots to determine which priests got to offer the incense on the altar in the holy place. This was a once in a lifetime privilege (Mishnah, Tamid 5.2), and so it would have been the high point of Zecharias’ priestly ministry.

The priests were divided into 24 courses (1 Chron. 24), and each priest served in the temple two weeks out of the year. In spite of the godlessness around them, Zacharias and Elizabeth were faithful to obey the Word of God and live blamelessly

The priests on duty drew lots to see which ministries they would perform, and Zacharias was chosen to offer incense in the holy place. This was a high honor that was permitted to a priest but once in a lifetime. The incense was offered daily before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice, about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was probably the evening offering that was assigned to Zacharias.

Their only sorrow was that they had no family, and they made this a matter of constant prayer. Little did they know that God would answer their prayers and give them, not a priest, but a prophet! And no ordinary prophet, for their son would be the herald of the coming King!

As Zecharias was offering the incense, suddenly an angel appeared to him and announced that his prayers had been heard. He and his wife would have a son, and he would not be an ordinary son, but the very one predicted by Malachi, the forerunner who would prepare the way for the Lord.

Luke mentions angels twenty-three times in his Gospel. There are innumerable angels (Rev. 5:11), only two of which are actually named in Scripture: Michael and Gabriel. When Gabriel appeared by the altar, Zacharias was frightened, for the angel’s appearance could have meant divine judgment.

God sovereignly takes the initiative in revival. God often waits until times are dark and hopeless before He sends revival. It was “in the days of Herod” that this word of hope came to Zecharias. Herod was an immoral, violent king of Edomite descent who claimed to be a Jew in his religion, but was such in name only.

He held onto power by murdering numerous family members over the years, including one son just five days before his own death. He was the same tyrant who slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem in his attempt to kill the newborn king of the Jews. It was near the end of this evil reign that the Lord broke into history with His gracious message to Zecharias.

Religion in Israel was corrupt. The high priests and members of the Sanhedrin vied for power and prestige. They made a healthy profit in the business of selling animals for sacrifice in the temple precincts. It was a bleak situation spiritually and morally.

But it’s often at such bleak times that God breaks into history with true revival. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

God brings revival through His faithful remnant.

Even though the times were spiritually dark, here were Zecharias and Elizabeth, “righteous in the sight of God” (1:6), going about their lives in obscure faithfulness. They walked consistently in the fear of the Lord, seeking to obey Him in all their ways.

If God brings revival in our day, it will be because His ordinary people walk in obedience before Him, seeking His kingdom and glory.

We need to be the kind of people that Zecharias and Elizabeth were, so that God can use us if He chooses to do so.

We must be righteous in His sight.

Men may look at our deeds, but God looks first at our heart.

It is ironic that Herod was called “Herod the Great” by his contemporaries, but here John is called great by God (1:15). It would be the wicked son of this wicked tyrant who put John to death. But in the final court of God, both Herods will not be great, but John will be highly esteemed.

God wanted John to be distinct from the culture around him, even from the common religious culture. Rather than being controlled by wine, he was to be controlled by the Holy Spirit .

If we live righteous lives, set apart unto God, filled with His Spirit, then God can use us to bring revival.

John would be used to “turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God” (1:16), and to “turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous” (1:17).

These are the two great commandments, to love God and to love others, beginning in the home.

Self-love is at the root of our relational problems. If we want God to send revival, God’s people must humble themselves, confess their wretched love of self, and seek to obey God and serve one another in love. Rather than blame others, we must point the finger at ourselves in genuine repentance. We must go to God first, and then to those we have sinned against, and ask forgiveness for our self-centered attitudes and sinful behavior.

We must be prepared for the Lord Himself.

John’s ministry was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (1:17). Since it was Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, for whom John was preparing the way, it is clear that Jesus is the Lord, eternal God in human flesh. But the point is, it is the Lord Himself who visits us in revival.

If we are daily judging our sin on the thought level, seeking to live as those set apart for the Lord, filled with His Spirit, repentant of all our sins, we will be prepared for that awesome event, should it happen, that the Lord Himself would visit us in revival.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2020 in Luke

 

The Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit – Ephesians 6:17


Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17  )

I don’t remember where it was, but I was about to go down a stairway that had a low entrance. Above it was a sign that read, “Mind Thy Head!” It meant, “Look out or you will hit your head!”

I’m also amazed at how many Christians do not mind their heads. They swim in the currents of worldly ideas and entertainment without developing a Christian mind. They’re oblivious to the godless philosophic assumptions that underlie worldly thinking.

They buy into the postmodern idea that there is no such thing as knowable, absolute truth in the spiritual or moral realms. These careless Christians ignore, or sometimes even ridicule, the need for sound doctrine. They want experience, not doctrine. They want good feelings, not careful thinking. Because they do not mind their heads, they are not transformed by the renewing of their minds. Rather, they are conformed to this evil world (Rom. 12:1-2). God gives us the helmet of salvation so that we will mind our heads:

Just before going into battle, the Roman soldier would put on a helmet, either made of bronze or of leather with pieces of metal covering it. It also had cheek pieces to protect part of his face.

1. The helmet protects your head from the enemy’s attacks.

Your head is a very important part of your body, because it contains your brain, which controls everything. Your head determines how you think about all of life.

How you think in large part determines how you feel and how you act.

How you think determines your worldview, which also affects how you feel and act. A person with a postmodern worldview does not believe in moral absolutes. They do not think anything is absolutely evil. They do not believe in judging the behavior of others as wrong. That would be intolerant and judgmental.

B. Your head determines how you function in all of life.

If your brain is not working properly, it affects how other parts of your body work. A brain injury can affect motor skills or the ability to speak or think clearly. If a soldier got knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, he was probably doomed. He had to guard his head by having his helmet securely in place.

Spiritually, salvation determines how we live in this sinful world. We live as pilgrims who have been rescued from this present evil kingdom of Satan. We live in subjection to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. We view everything—values, money, entertainment, the arts, or politics—from the perspective of being saved people.

C. Your head determines how you relate to others.

Once you put on the helmet of salvation, you realize that all people are in one of two (and only two) camps: either they are saved and going to heaven; or, they are lost and going to hell.

If a person is not saved, then he cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness to him (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). He is blind to much of his own sin. He is living for himself and his own futile goals. He has false views about death and eternity, thinking that if there is a heaven, he’s probably good enough to go there.

But because you have put on the helmet of salvation, you relate to people differently than you did before. You now love the people of God, whom you avoided before. You now view lost people with compassion and understanding, yearning that they would come to know God through Jesus Christ.

You do not view lost people as the enemy, but as victims of the enemy. While you can no longer join with them in their course of sinful behavior (1 Pet. 4:3-4), you pray for their salvation and look for opportunities to talk with them about the Savior. Putting on the helmet of salvation means that you relate differently to the world.

Believers Stand Firm by Taking Up the Sword of the Spirit

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

The sword Paul refers to is the dagger (machaira), which varied in length from six to eighteen inches. It was the common sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, and was carried in a sheath attached to the belt.[1]

A skillful soldier used it to deflect the blows of his enemy, and the Word of God must be used in this fashion. We get a picture of this when Satan attacked Christ in the wilderness (Matt 4). To each of Satan’s temptations, Christ responded with Scripture. Therefore, the Christian who does not know the Word of God well will have problems defending against the attacks of the devil.

A Proper View of Scripture 2 Peter 1:19-21

Most people know they need guidance for their lives. Just over a thousand randomly selected persons were surveyed recently on behalf of a life insurance/financial services company. 75% said they believed they were created by God for a purpose, but only 45% of those said they understood what that purpose was.

The questions more people in that survey said they would like to ask God than any other?

  1. “What is my purpose on Earth?”
  2. “Will I have life after death?”
  3. “Why do bad things happen?”

To some of us, it would seem strange that anybody would want to ask such things of God. We’d likely reply that he has already answered them.

Christians believe that God does communicate with the men and women he has created in his image and that the primary vehicle through which he does so is the Bible.

The Barna Research Group discovered a few years back that 10 % of the 1,000 people in one of its polls thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, 16% were sure the New Testament contained a book written by Thomas the apostle, and 38% thought the Old and New Testaments were written a few years after the death of Jesus.

While it may be impractical and impossible for every Christian to be a genuine biblical scholar. It’s not unreasonable to expect that every Christian should be a regular reader and prayerful student of Scripture.

(2 Peter 1:19-21)  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. {20} Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul had words of praise for the Christians at Thessalonica in that they received the gospel message, not as the word of men, “but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thes. 2: 13).

This parallels Paul’s text about the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
2  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort (encourage), with complete patience and teaching.

God enabled certain specially chosen individuals to know the otherwise unknowable or interpret the otherwise merely puzzling and communicate those insights correctly.  We believe the Bible in inerrant (without error) and authoritative.

Four propositions which I feel must govern our thinking as we approach the subject of the authority of the Scriptures in this 21th century

  1. We have no right to hold a different view of Scripture than that held by Jesus himself.

The authority of the Bible rests squarely upon the authority of Jesus Christ himself.

To be a Christian at all means that we have fully accepted the authority of Jesus. It is an utter inconsistency to say that we accept what the Bible says about Christ and reject what he says about Scripture.

  1. We have no right to views of Scripture which are different from the apostles’ view of Scripture.

The apostles, like our Lord, are our teachers. We are not theirs. It is Karl Barth who says, “We cannot stand and look over the apostles’ shoulders, correcting their work. It is they who stand looking over our shoulders, correcting our work.”

The apostles, in writing the New Testament, everywhere declare that their authority is simply the Lord’s authority. They, too, rest the authority of their words squarely upon the authority of the Lord Jesus.

These men who lived in the 1st century and associated with the Lord Jesus, who heard his words, and who so ministered in power throughout the world of their day as to transform the generation in which they lived, knew far more about what God thought and said than any man studying theology today.

  1. Scripture does not need to be defended, but simply declared.

No one today has access to divine truth by means of any personal interview with deity. God does not speak in dreams, visions, or by a supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Objective revelation has been made known through the completed Bible, and men will only be exposed to the message of the Scriptures as we distribute the sacred volume and proclaim its saving message.

Every single Christian must take seriously his obligation to teach the Bible consistent with his divinely appointed role, ability, and opportunity.

The whole testimony of this church is to the fact that it is the preaching and the exposition of the Bible that establishes its authority. We do not need to defend it, just declare it, proclaim it.

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 367–368). Chicago: Moody Press.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Shield of Faith – Ephesians 6:16




I once heard a Christian psychologist on the radio say that to tell hurting people to “trust God” is useless advice. Giving him the benefit of a doubt, perhaps he meant that just to repeat that phrase without explaining how to trust God, is useless advice. But that’s obvious.

I rather think that he meant that trusting God wouldn’t help the hurting person work through the deeper struggles in his life. For that, he needs a psychotherapist!

If he was right, I wonder how the many generations of saints through the centuries before the advent of modern psychotherapy managed to deal with life’s overwhelming problems? They faced the sudden death of loved ones. They had disappointments and discouraging setbacks.

They struggled with friends and family who betrayed them. They had to cope with failing health, the loss of income, and the fears of armies that threatened to invade their homelands. Life wasn’t any different then than it is now. How did they cope without psychotherapy?

Answer: they trusted in the living God. Listen to how David described his grim situation (Ps. 31:13): “For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.” Then he added (31:14-15a), “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.”

Trusting in the living God is not useless advice! It is the secure stronghold of saints in dire circumstances down through the centuries. And it is Paul’s counsel to us here: To stand firm against the enemy’s attacks, take up the shield of faith.

Paul pictures the believer in the heat of battle. The air is thick with flaming arrows that had been dipped in pitch and set on fire. It’s a life and death situation. How will he survive? Paul’s answer is (Eph. 6:16), “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

When the enemy attacks, believers are to trust in God and His sure promises to block and quench the flaming arrows.

The Bible is full of stories of believers who were in overwhelming circumstances, where they despaired of life itself. What did they do? They couldn’t get an appointment with their psychotherapist. He didn’t do battlefront calls. So they cried out to God and trusted in Him.

In many cases, He delivered them from death. In other cases, He sustained them as they died in faith. You can read a summary of these stories in Hebrews 11.

1. There is an evil enemy that is seeking to destroy you.

Satan is the evil one, a hideously malevolent power who is relentlessly opposed to God and to God’s people. As we saw, this is not just an impersonal force for evil in the world, but rather an intelligent, cunning personal evil spirit who commands an army of evil spirits at war against God, His holy angels, and His saints.

What are these flaming arrows of the evil one? They include all forms of temptation that are common to us all:

· It may be the temptation to pride and selfishness that we all battle every day.

· It can be the slanderous things that others say about us.

· It may be the temptation to fear world events or to fear our own difficult circumstances, including health problems or death itself.

· There are the flaming arrows of discouragement, despair, and doubting God.

· Many of our brethren around the world face the arrows of persecution.

· They have lost loved ones and all of their personal possessions because of their faith in Christ. They are under intense pressure to renounce their faith in order to escape with their lives.

The enemy will follow up the arrows with the accusation, “Ha! You call yourself a Christian, but look at how you’re thinking! You’re just fooling yourself! You aren’t following Christ or you wouldn’t have thoughts like that!” How do you deal with this attack? You take up the shield of faith! But, what does that mean?

2. To take up the shield of faith means actively trusting in the living God and His Word.

Paul to use the shield of faith to refer to actively trusting in God. It is applying what God is and what He says to the particular problem or temptation that the enemy has shot at us. Note three things:

A. The shield protects us as we take refuge behind it.

Roman soldiers had two kinds of shields. They had a smaller shield that fit on one arm. It could be easily maneuvered to ward off the enemy’s sword in close combat. But they also had larger shields (referred to here), about four feet high by two and a half feet wide, that they hid behind while advancing against the enemy.

They were made of wood, covered with leather, and bound with iron. The soldiers would stand shield to shield, forming a wall of protection against the enemy’s flaming arrows. As long as they were behind their shields, they were protected.

If they moved out from behind the shield, they could suffer painful or fatal wounds. One soldier reported having over 200 enemy arrows in his shield after an intense battle! So the shield was essential for survival!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Christian Soldier [Baker], p. 305) says, “Faith here means the ability to apply quickly what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.”

B. The shield is our faith in the living God and His Word.

The Bible often refers to God Himself as our shield. The Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision and said (Gen. 15:1), “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.”

David knew God in the same way. Ps. 18:2-3: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

There is a difference between knowing intellectually that God is a shield to all that take refuge in Him and actually taking refuge in Him by faith.

C. To take up this shield, we must actively trust in God.

Looking at your circumstances and at God’s promises and deciding to rely on God.

Carl Brecheen gave me the idea many years ago to read the Psalms often. The Psalms are experiential examples of men in desperate circumstances that trusted in the Lord for deliverance. Often, the psalmist’s life is in danger. He rehearses his circumstances and then cries out to God for help. By the end of the psalm, even though his circumstances have not yet changed at all, he rejoices in God’s promised salvation.

That’s how you actively trust God. You analyze your situation:

· “God, I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer.”

· “God, my teenager is rebelling against you and being sucked into this evil world.”

· “God, I need a job to provide for my family.”

     You tell the Lord your desperate situation. Then, you rehearse who God is and what He has promised and you make a decision to rely on Him. You may have to say with Job (13:15), “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” because you know that beyond the grave you have eternal life with Him.

   Implicit in this process is the next step: Actively trusting in God requires knowing your weakness and God’s strength and His promises.

We all tend to trust in ourselves and in our own ability to get ourselves out of the difficulties we face. So the Lord has to bring us to see our weakness.

Faith by definition looks away from oneself and to God alone for help.

But to trust in God we must also know God’s strength and His promises. We learn of these qualities and promises in God’s Word. 

Sometimes Christians complain that they don’t have enough faith. They see a Christian with strong faith and they say, “I wish I could have faith like you have!” But that puts the focus on faith itself, rather than on God.

Faith is only as good as its object. Your faith will grow stronger as you read God’s Word and see how He has sustained believers in every imaginable kind of difficulty.

3. Taking up the shield of faith implies that we are not in the fight alone.

As I said, the Roman army moved ahead by the soldiers putting their shields side by side, forming a wall of defense. While each soldier had to hold his own shield, the strength came by doing it with all the others.

So while each believer must take up the shield of faith individually, we do it together with others who are trusting God in the battle. You’ll be stronger in the battle if you know that your brothers and sisters down the line are fending off the enemy’s arrows by their shields. We must stand together and pray for one another, so that we can encourage one another in the fight of faith. Finally,

4. When we take up the shield of faith in our trials and temptations, we learn in a deeper way to savor the sweetness and all-sufficiency of Christ for our souls.

A main reason God allows the enemy to shoot his fiery arrows at us is that it drives us to a deeper experience with Christ. We all tend to trust Him only to the degree that we are forced to trust Him.

When the arrows are flying and we take refuge behind our shield, we come to know aspects of His glory and beauty that we did not know before the battle. As He delivers us, we know by experience, as David did, that He is “my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).

Conclusion

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I struggle with having faith in God in my trials. How do I get the faith that I need to make Christ the shield for my soul in times of trouble?”

First, recognize that your lack of faith in God constitutes a relational problem with God. If someone is completely trustworthy and you tell him, “I don’t trust you,” you’re calling him a liar and creating distance in your relationship with him. Not to trust God is to say, “Your promises are not true. You’re a liar.” That’s a terrible sin!

Second, confess your unbelief as sin and ask God’s forgiveness. He will forgive if we acknowledge our sin and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

Third, ask God to give you faith to trust Him fully.

Fourth, don’t try to work up faith; rather, look to the Lord Himself. He is trustworthy. He has never failed anyone, including the martyrs. Read your Bible to see who He is.

Fifth, do not trust in how you feel, but trust in the sure Word of God. Faith must often stand against feelings. God’s Word is the compass to guide you when you’re lost in the fog of trials.

The world’s counsel may seem right, but the counsel of God’s Word is always faithful and true. Follow Him, not your feelings!



 
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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Footwear of Peace – Ephesians 6:15


When we became Christians, we gained an enemy. Satan and his demons desire to steal our peace and joy, kill our physical bodies, and destroy our witness.

We stand firm in the strength and power of the Lord—apart from this, we will be destroyed (Eph 6:10). But we also stand firm by putting on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11).

Each piece must be firmly put in place. The armor of God refers to righteous character traits (cf. Col 3:12). Therefore, sin in the life of believers gives the devil a foothold to destroy us and others.

The belt of truth reminds us that Satan is a liar and that he constantly uses deception. The breastplate of righteousness reminds us that Satan attacks our vital organs representing our mind and emotions and also that sin in general opens a door for him.

In Ephesians 6:15, we will consider the footwear of peace, as well as its implications about Satan’s schemes.

6:15 …and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.NIV Proper footwear can make a huge difference, whether you’re hiking or playing a sport or fighting in a war. In Paul’s day, soldiers did not have land mines. Instead, they put sharpened spikes just beneath the surface of the ground, camouflaged with leaves or soft dirt around them.

An advancing soldier needed sturdy boots to stop the spikes from penetrating or he would suffer a debilitating injury. He could be outfitted in the most invincible armor from his head down to his ankles, but it wouldn’t do him a bit of good if he couldn’t walk.

When your feet hurt badly, you can’t even stand up, much less fight or march. So it was essential for soldiers to wear rugged boots designed for battle.

Roman soldiers wore boots that had small nails protruding from the bottom to give them firm footing in combat.

The Word of God is the gospel, or Good News, that brings peace. In other words, believers are ready for battle because “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 nkjv).

They can stand firm, with peace, even in hand-to-hand combat, because they know that they are doing right and that they are on the winning side. Christians are in the battle both with the inner peace Christ has already given and the desire to produce that peace in the hearts of others.

When the enemy, the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), offers false ways to peace or tries to get us to focus on our concerns and fears, we Christian soldiers can stand up to him. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 nkjv).

There is deliberate irony, in that the gospel of peace enables us to wage war successfully. The gospel of peace is our firm footing in the battle against Satan. Let’s see how that applies to us.

1. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must clearly understand the gospel so that we can defend it against attack.

There is one sense in which the gospel is easy to understand. Little children can grasp it. Illiterate primitive people can get it. In fact, Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, it is often those who are wise in this world that scoff at the gospel, whereas God reveals it to the simple, so that no one may boast before Him.

The good news (that’s what gospel means) is that although we all have sinned against God and deserve His eternal judgment, because of His great love and mercy He sent His own Son to bear the penalty that we deserve.

We receive God’s gift of salvation by faith alone, apart from any merit or good works on our part.

Satan hates the gospel and is always attacking it from various angles. We see this repeatedly within the pages of the New Testament, where false teachers quickly perverted the essentials of the gospel.

Paul wrote Galatians to defend the gospel against those that claimed to believe it, but they added the Jewish rite of circumcision to faith as necessary for salvation. Paul rails against them in the strongest possible language (Gal. 1:6-9).

Even Peter and Barnabas for a short while had compromised the gospel by currying the favor of these false teachers, until Paul confronted them (Gal. 2:11-14).

The apostle John wrote much of his first epistle to warn his readers against those who were trying to deceive them (1 John 2:26).

2. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must have appropriated that message personally.

A. Appropriating the gospel personally begins with repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone for salvation.

In order to appropriate the good news about Jesus Christ, you must also accept the bad news about your sin. The Bible confronts and indicts us all with the plain truth (Rom. 3:23), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Further (Rom. 6:23a), “For the wages of sin is death….” If you take sin and judgment out of the gospel in order to make the message more acceptable to modern thinking, you just took away the need for a Savior.

Christ did not die to save us from poor self-esteem! He does not save us from a bad marriage to a good marriage! He does not save us from financial failure to success. Christ died to save us from sin and God’s eternal judgment, which we deserve because we have sinned.

To appropriate the gospel, we must repent of sin as you believe in Jesus Christ, and as you are a sinner in need of a Savior, the Biblical and logical step is to die to sin and be immersed in water in order to have your sins forgiven, and the guilt removed.

B. Appropriating the gospel personally continues with preaching the gospel often to your own soul.

Jerry Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace [NavPress, 1994] challenges us to preach the gospel to himself every day. Vincent writes (p. 7), “God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.” He adds (p. 8), “Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced.” I can’t give you all of the benefits that he lists, but here are three:

(1). Preaching the gospel to your own soul increases your love for God, for others, and for the lost.

These three loves represent the two greatest commandments and the Great Commission. The gospel focuses us on God’s great love for us and of the infinite price that He paid to redeem us from our sins.

The gospel also increases our love for others. Many verses could be cited, but note Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us….”

And, the gospel increases our love for those who need to know Christ. After Paul goes through the gospel in Romans 3-8, reaching the crescendo of God’s unfailing love that enables us to endure all trials (Rom. 8:35-39), Paul’s next words tell of his great sorrow and unceasing grief because his fellow Jews are not, for the most part, saved (Rom. 9:1-3). Rehearsing the gospel to your own soul burdens you with the condition of those who need to hear about Jesus Christ.

(2). Preaching the gospel to your own soul humbles your pride.

Pride is at the root of every sin. Pride leads me to think that I know better than God does what is good for me. Pride leads me to be selfish and disregard the feelings of others. “Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place.”

(3). Preaching the gospel to your own soul causes you to glorify God in all things, including your trials.

In Ephesians 1, the fact that God chose us before the foundation of the world and saved us through Christ’s blood is all “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).

Paul shows repeatedly, reveling in the gospel of God’s grace towards us while we were yet sinners causes us to rejoice even in our trials, knowing that He is using them to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 5:1-8; 8:28-39).

C. Appropriating the gospel personally brings the peace of Christ practically into your daily life.

Paul tells us to stand firm by putting on the boots of “the gospel of peace.” We saw in Ephesians 2 the two-fold peace which the gospel brings to us.

First, it brings us peace with God. Formerly, we were alienated from God because of our sins, separate from Christ, “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But as Paul goes on to say, the cross of Christ preached peace to us and reconciled us to God, so that now we have access to Him. You cannot fight the evil one unless you have God’s peace in your heart because you are reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ.

Second, the gospel brings us peace with one another. As Ephesians 2 shows, Christ Himself is our peace (2:14). He brought together into one the formerly hostile Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16). The battle against Satan is not just individual; it also is corporate. He is trying to destroy the church and one way he does it is by creating division and strife over personality clashes or over non-essential doctrinal fights.

Be alert to Satan’s schemes here! He often gets a church fighting over non-essentials. Then some in the church react to the sinful fighting by saying, “We shouldn’t fight at all!” So the church ends up tolerating those who promote destructive heresies regarding the gospel.

Paul has emphasized the need for tolerance with one another on the non-essentials (4:1-3). But he also has warned about the dangers of destructive false doctrines (4:13-16). We should be at peace with all that love the true gospel. We are at war with those that pervert the gospel.

3. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents having the peace of God.

Not only has God given each of us peace with himself, but we also have the peace of God. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Christ had while asleep in the boat during the storm, the peace that enabled him to go to the cross, he has given to us. It is not God’s will for us to live in anxiety, fear, and worry. Scripture says, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not worry,” and “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6). Christ has given us the promise of his peace.

If you are worried, anxious, and fearful, you have the wrong footwear for this battle. Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The lion roars to incite fear in his prey. Some believers are fearful about their future; others are fearful about what others think or say. Others are afraid of failure. These fears undermine the footing of Christians—our readiness for battle comes from God’s peace.

Therefore, God commands us to put on his peace. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Paul also refers to the peace of Christ as clothing to be worn (cf. Col 3:12). As believers, we must let God’s peace rule in our hearts—not fear of failure, losing our jobs, or rejection. Satan wants to lead us as slaves through fear, but God guides us as children through his peace (cf. Rom 8:15).

Philippians 4:6-7 says,  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must reject anxiety and fear. They are not God’s will for us, and they are sinful. They say, “God, you are not to be trusted,” or “You are not in control.”

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to pray about everything. Prayer must become the atmosphere we live in. When we are not living in prayer (i.e. God’s presence), the storms of life will constantly frighten and overwhelm us.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to give thanks in everything. When we complain, murmur, and criticize, we lose the peace of God.

4. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents peace in our relationships with others.

Animosity between Jew and Gentile was a major issue for the early church. In Acts 6, the Jews neglected the Greek widows in the daily distribution while providing for the Hebrew widows. However, Paul said Christ is our peace—he has made us one.

Surely disunity is one of the major weapons the enemy uses against our churches. Sometimes he brings disunity through racism, as seen with the Jews and Gentiles in the early church.

Sometimes he uses doctrine. What God means to equip and strengthen us, the enemy uses to bring division and discord.

Most times, he just uses pride. Pride says, “My way is the only way, and it can’t be done any other way.” Churches divide over changing the color of the carpet, the music, the flow of worship services, and any other thing. The root of this is pride—”my way is the only way.”

Ways the Gospel is under attack

A. The gospel is under attack from the radical non-lordship salvation heresy.

Jesus warned of many who would claim to believe in Him, but they are not genuinely saved (Matt. 7:21-23). As James and First John clearly emphasize, saving faith necessarily leads to a life of obedience to Christ. Those who claim to believe in Jesus but do not obey Him are deceived (1 John 3:4-10).

B. The gospel is under attack from “Christian” psychology, which denies the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel.

This popular movement that has flooded into the church claims that while you must believe in Christ for salvation, in order to deal with your psychological and relational problems, you need the insights of psychology. So the gospel is nice “spiritual truth,” that is fine for your devotional life, but it doesn’t really have much to say to the real life problems that you face. To deal with these problems, you need more than Christ, more than the Holy Spirit, and more than the Bible. You need a professional therapist.

But that view assaults the transforming power of the gospel. It subtly, but surely, attacks the person and work of Christ. Did His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection end the tyranny of sin in the lives of believers or not? Is the gospel promise of new life in Christ just a nice, but useless, platitude or does it really give us a new heart, new desires, and the power to overcome sin?

C. The gospel is under attack from the “seeker church” movement.

The seeker church movement has softened the offense of the cross to make the gospel more palatable and user-friendly. It seeks to apply American marketing principles to the church. They have asked potential “customers,” “What would it take to get you to come to church?” The customers answered, “We’d like an upbeat, short service that relates to our felt needs. Tell us how to succeed in our families and at work. Tell us how to cope with our problems. Give us contemporary music that makes us feel good (keep it light on content!). Throw in some entertaining drama to keep the program moving. Keep the sermon short and humorous. By all means, get rid of that hellfire and damnation stuff! That’s depressing!”

So, the church marketing folks went back to the drawing board and designed a church around these felt needs. Throw in a Starbucks Coffee bar, a workout room to keep those bodies in shape, some great multi-media effects, and you’ve got a program that the seekers will flock to. But in the process, the gospel gets changed into some variation of, “Try Jesus, He’ll help you with your problems.”

But that’s not the gospel! It’s really another form of idolatry, where you “use” your “Jesus idol” to get what you want out of life.

D. The gospel is under attack from the postmodern views of the emerging church.

Buying into the view that truth is relative and ultimately unknowable in any certain way, the emerging church has also attacked the atonement of Christ. It proclaims a tolerant, all-inclusive universalism that does not confront sinners with their need to repent and believe the gospel.

If I had time, I could deal with other modern attacks on the gospel.

The “new perspective on Paul” undermines justification by faith alone, which is at the heart of the gospel.

“Open theism” attacks God’s sovereignty and omniscience.

Some in the charismatic movement preach a false gospel that promises health and wealth to everyone.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church lure frustrated evangelicals through a message of salvation by ritualism and good works.

The cults all have a works-based offer of salvation.

Native religion and eastern religions promise salvation through mysticism and works. The list goes on and on!

The point is, if we are going to be prepared for battle by being shod with the gospel of peace, we need to understand the gospel clearly so that we can spot Satan’s relentless, but often subtle attacks and defend the gospel against these soul-destroying errors.

Conclusion

Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.

Do you have your boots on? Without them you are not prepared to stand firm against the enemy of the gospel.

Be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace by understanding the gospel message so that you can defend it against error. Appropriate the gospel of peace personally and preach it often to your own soul, as well as to those who are lost. In so doing, you will enjoy God’s peace in your soul.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2020 in ephesians

 
 
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