Category Archives: Luke

Spending Time With Jesus: Relational Sins: How to Deal With Them – Luke 17:1-6

Sometimes when I counsel with couples I marvel at how this angry, bitter couple sitting in my office could be the same couple that just a few years before stood at the altar, gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes, promising to love one another forever. What went wrong?

Relational problems not only occur in the church; they also occur in the home and anywhere else that people have to work closely with one another.

In a word, what went wrong is sin and not dealing properly with that sin. Relationships can be the source either of our deepest joy in life or of our deepest pain, depending on whether we follow God’s directives on how to work through relational problems. The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love our neighbor. Thus the Bible is filled with counsel on how to love one another. In our text, Jesus is saying,

We should be on guard against relational sins and we should deal with them biblically when they occur.

Having just dealt with the Pharisees and their religious hypocrisy, Jesus now turns to the disciples with a corrective warning. The false teaching and self-centered, superficial religion of the Pharisees would inevitably cause many of the sinners who had recently turned to Christ (15:1) to stumble in their new faith.

Jesus warned his disciples against causing the downfall of other believers and holding grudges against them. He also encouraged them to place their complete trust in God and to serve him with joy.

1. Be on guard against committing relational sins (17:1-3a).

1  And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!  2  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3  Pay attention to yourselves!

The Greek word skandala used here denotes any hindrance that causes another person to fall into sin, whether through temptation or false teaching. Jesus explained that this was bound to happen, but it did not excuse that person through whom the temptation came

Jesus explained that the consequences were so severe that it would be better to have a millstone tied around one’s neck and be thrown into the sea than for a person to face God after causing others to stumble.

A “millstone” was a heavy, flat stone used to grind grain. This large stone would be connected to an ox or donkey that would walk in a circle, causing the stone to roll and crush the grain. To have a millstone tied around the neck and be dumped into the sea pictured a horrifying death by drowning. Even such a death would be minor, however, compared to what this person would face in eternity.

When Jesus refers to “these little ones,” He probably means the new believers from among the sinners and tax-gatherers (15:1) who were coming to Him. The phrase, “little ones,” pictures them as God’s little children, showing His tender concern for their well-being.

The major reason that we are so prone to sin against others and to take offense when others sin against us is that our sinfulness prompts us to justify ourselves and to blame others.

When Jesus warns, “Be on guard,” He means that each of us needs to look first and foremost to our own hearts. When relational conflicts erupt, the first thing you should do is to ask God to show you what part you are responsible for. If you think that, being generous, you’re responsible for ten percent of the problem, you can safely multiply that number by four or five!

We all are prone to justify ourselves and blame others. But healing will not begin in damaged relationships until each person allows the Spirit of God through the Word of God to shine into his or her own heart and reveal the sin that is there.

We need to guard against relational sins because God views them so seriously.

In Matthew 5:23-24 He says, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” In other words, our relational sins hinder our worship!

2. Deal biblically with relational sins when they occur: rebuke, repentance, and forgiveness (17:3b-4).

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4  and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
If your brother sins, rebuke him.

Careful leadership is important for Jesus’ followers, but so is constant forgiveness. When there is sin among God’s people, they are responsible to rebuke one another. To “rebuke” does not mean to point out every sin, for Jesus also warns against being judgmental (6:37).

To “rebuke” (always in love) means to bring sin to a person’s attention with the purpose of restoring that person to God and to fellow humans. In context here, this refers to sin that could pull that person or others away from God and thus result in the horrible judgment Jesus spoke of in 17:2.

When a person feels that he or she must rebuke another Christian for a sin, it is wise for that person to check his or her attitudes and motivations first. Unless rebuke is tied to forgiveness, it will not help the sinning person.

Jesus explained, in fact, that if the other person repents, the rebuker must forgive. And that forgiveness extends constantly (seven times a day simply means “all the time”) because, after all, that is how God deals with every person.

Because God has forgiven all believers’ sins, they should not withhold forgiveness from others. Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others. Those who don’t forgive others set themselves outside and above Christ’s law of lov

In my experience of helping people work through relational conflicts, this step is often neglected completely out of cowardice or done poorly at best. People would sooner walk away from a strained relationship than to give biblical rebuke to the person who is sinning against them or against others.

Or, quite often if someone sins against us, we go and tell others about it, “just so they can pray about it” or “to get their counsel.” Sure! Jesus clearly says, “If your brother sins (against you is implied), rebuke him.”

Let’s face it, it’s not pleasant to have to rebuke someone. If you find it pleasant, you are not in the right frame of mind to do it and you will probably do it in an ungodly manner! But the command to rebuke a sinning brother is the first step in the restoration process. You are not dealing with him biblically until you do it.

Rebuking a fellow believer requires care. Finding fault and expressing it effectively are delicate proceedings. People are easily offended. We are not to be passive about strained relationships. To be apathetic is not to love the other person. We should ardently go after peace.

If someone who professes to be a Christian is acting in a way that brings shame to the name of Christ, and you know the person and are aware of his behavior, you’re it! You need to go and talk to him about his sin in an attempt to bring him to repentance. To let it go is not to care about the Lord’s glory or your brother’s holiness.

In a first-time confrontation, try these six steps:

  1. Pray for God’s help in getting your concern across without generating antagonism or defensiveness.
  2. Approach the other person as a friend, not an adversary.
  3. Imagine the most innocent possible reason for the other’s fault, not the most insidious or repulsive.
  4. Make your approach a series of gradual and mutual agreements: “Could I speak to you?” “I’m having trouble with something. May I ask you about it?”
  5. State your case once clearly. Repetition becomes like the pounding of a sledgehammer.
  6. Express gratitude for the conversation, confidence in the friendship, and cordial expectations for the future. Show that you harbor no doubt that the matter has been solved

Is the other person’s sin damaging your relationship with him (or her)? Perhaps the other person habitually gossips about others, so that you find yourself wanting to avoid being around her (or him). You don’t have to become best of friends, but the loving thing to do is not to avoid her, but to attempt to help her face up to her sin and repent.

Or, perhaps the person said or did something that hurt you, so that you find yourself dodging him every time you see him. Again, the loving thing to do is to meet privately and confront what he did so that you help him grow as a believer.

Is the other person’s sin seriously hurting others? Perhaps you see a young mother who verbally or physically abuses her children. Or it may be a professing Christian is ensnared in drug or alcohol abuse, along with the inevitable deception that accompanies those sins. You are not showing God’s love to let the person go on in this destructive behavior. You must rebuke with the view of leading the person to repentance.

Is the other person’s sin seriously hurting himself? If you see a Christian engaging in some sin that is going to destroy him and you shrug and say, “That’s his problem,” you are not loving your brother. As James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back; let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Is the person’s sin an often repeated pattern? If a person does the same thing over and over, he is enslaved to that sin and needs help getting out of it. Anger, lust, greed, selfishness, insensitivity to others, laziness or a lack of self-discipline, and many other sins can destroy a person’s faith if he does not get the victory in Christ. If you see these habit patterns, you need to come alongside and offer help in the Lord.

The goal of rebuke is repentance.

The goal of rebuking another believer is not “to get it off your chest.” It is not “to give him a piece of your mind.” It is not to prove that you’re right and he’s wrong. It is not to win so that next time you have some ammunition to use in the heat of battle.

The goal is to bring your brother to repentance, to restore his relationship with the Lord, with you, and with others. Until you have that goal clearly in mind, you are not ready to rebuke your brother.

The response to repentance is forgiveness.

If your brother repents, forgive him. Then Jesus adds, “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Certainly, after seven times in the same day, you might be inclined to question the man’s sincerity!

Jesus puts it like this to say, “Go overboard on forgiveness. If there is even a hint that your brother is repentant, don’t question his motives. Just forgive and forgive and forgive again and again and again.”

Biblical forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is to dismiss the case from court. The word means to let go or release. When you forgive, you choose to let the matter drop and you promise not to bring it up against the person in the future.

5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Handling Conflict With Maturity. Could Paul, David, or Peter attend this congregation? All are known as great men of faith and yet they committed terrible sins in their adult years trying to serve the Lord.

Peter denied Christ in spite of being warned about it beforehand. David’s sin of pride cost the death of 70,000 men in 1 Chronicles 21. David was an adulterer and a murderer…yet called him “a man after God’s own heart.”

Perhaps Paul gives us words to encouragement if we’re having difficulty answering the question: (1 Timothy 1:15-16)  “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. {16} But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Luke


The Three “Great Miracles”

Three “Great Miracles” described in scripture shape the Christian’s understanding of God. Each of these three grand miracles have been challenged by non-believers and even watered down by some believers.

  1. The Miracle of Creation

The most insidious and damaging ideology ever foisted upon the mind of modern man is the notion that human beings are but animals, and the offspring of other, more primitive creatures. It’s known as the theory of organic evolution.

Tragically, multiplied thousands across the land have ingested this dogma. Evolution is not a scientific law. It is a mere hypothesis that falls quite beyond the pale of the scientific method, which should include observation, experimentation, and verification.

Many scientists dispute that evolutionary dogma is true science. Evolutionist Robert Jastow has conceded that belief in the accidental origin of life is “an act of faith much like faith in the power of a Supreme Being.”

Theodore Tahmisian, a nuclear physicist with the Atomic Energy Commission, has said: “Scientists who go about teaching that evolution is a fact of life are great con men, and the story they are telling may be the greatest hoax ever. In explaining evolution we do not have one iota of fact … It is a tangled mishmash of guessing games and figure jaggling … If evolution occurred at all, it was probably in a very different manner than the way it is now taught”.

    (Gen 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

(Gen 1:2 NIV)  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

John 1:1-3 (ESV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

  1. The Miracle of the Incarnation

How does God reveal Himself?  Through scripture…through our conscience…through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But it begins for many through nature.

(Psalms 19:1-6)  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

(Romans 1:20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act.

If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely.

And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ.

(John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

The miracle of Jesus’ Birth.

Biblical names frequently have a profound theological meaning. For instance, in Isaiah 7:14 the prophecy was given: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The name “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God is with us,” and the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ.

By the use of  “Immanuel,” at least two things are in view:

First, that Jesus is a divine being; he is God.

Second, there is the implication that in some way Deity has identified “with us.”

As the sustainer

The Bible teaches that the divine Christ sustains the very universe in which we live. In that great chapter which is designed to exalt the Lord, Paul affirms that in Christ “all things consist” (Col. 1:17).

In human nature

Though Christ was existing eternally as Deity, yet it was the divine plan that he become human. So in the fulness of time the “seed” of woman came to earth (cf. Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4).

In order that he might identify with us, Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3).

Through his vicarious death

The identification of God the Son with us in his death is vividly stressed in Isaiah 53. Note the interchange of pronouns:

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4-5).

“Him who knew no sin he [God] made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). The death of Christ is given a very prominent place in the Bible.

With daily watchfulness

The Scriptures are filled with promises that God will be with his saints on a daily basis. “Jehovah of hosts is with us” (Psa. 46:7).

Similarly, Jesus, in concluding the Great Commission, announced: “lo, I am with you always (pas hay-mer’-ah– literally, all the days – i.e., day by day) even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

  1. The miracle of the resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the Christian system (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14ff). If there was no resurrection, Christianity is a hoax, and we are wasting our time. But the truth is, the event of Jesus’ resurrection is incontrovertible.

Professor Thomas Arnold, a world-renowned historian, once said that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “best-attested fact in human history” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, IV, p. 2569).

First, the resurrection is one of the major evidences that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Paul affirmed that Christ is “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

Second, Jesus’ resurrection represents an assurance that we can have forgiveness from our sins.

Paul contended: “… if Christ hath not been raised, our faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). The reverse of the apostle’s affirmation would be this: If Jesus was raised, sins will be forgiven when we obey the gospel – Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Third, the resurrection tells the world that the kingdom of God is ruled by a living sovereign.

The founder of Islam is dead and his bones lie dormant in the earth. But the founder of Christianity – sixty years after His death – appeared to John on the island of Patmos and said: “I am the first and the last, and the Living one … I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore …” (Rev. 1:17-18).

Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection proves that physical death is not the termination of human existence.

God, who is the giver of life (1 Tim. 6:13), has the power to reanimate the human body. Christ’s triumph over the grave is Heaven’s pledge to us that we too shall be raised. This is why Jesus is referred to as the “firstfruits of them that are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20, 23).

Fifth, the Lord’s resurrection previewed the ultimate victory of Christianity over all its enemies.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus is depicted as a lamb that had been slain, but was standing again (5:6). This same Lord was “the lion of the tribe of Judah” that had overcome His foes (5:5).

Christians too will overcome as a result of the Lamb’s sacrifice and victory over death (cf. Rev. 12:11).

Creation…the Incarnation…the Resurrection. They are facts upon which our faith is based. I am thankful we possess this information!


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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in God, Jesus Christ, Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: How to be Truly Rich – Luke 16:1-13

In Luke 16, Jesus tells two parables—the unrighteous steward and rich man and Lazarus—to show that God’s perspective on riches and our perspective are often diametrically opposed. If we want to be truly rich, we need God’s perspective on money.

Jesus tells the first parable to the disciples (16:1), but the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening in and scoffing at Him (16:14). So the ensuing instruction and the second parable are aimed primarily at the Pharisees. The entire chapter should make us all stop and think carefully about our attitude toward money.

The parable of the unrighteous steward causes commentators a lot of grief. They call it the most difficult parable in Luke. Jesus is seemingly praising a scoundrel. But a careful look reveals that Jesus is not praising the man’s crookedness, but rather his shrewdness in using a present opportunity to provide for his inevitable future needs.

Jesus calls the man “unrighteous” (16:8), thereby condemning his wrong ways. But He is saying that we can learn a valuable lesson from this pagan scoundrel, who is wiser than many “sons of light,” in that he saw what was coming and he used what had been entrusted to him while he could to prepare for the future. The lesson for us is:

A faithful steward will use his Master’s money shrewdly to provide true riches for eternity.

Jesus is telling us that there is a way you can take it with you, namely, by wisely investing the resources that God has entrusted to you now in things that matter for eternity.

1. Faithful versus unrighteous: Be faithful, not unrighteous, in financial matters.

The first contrast, in verse 10, is between “the one who is faithful” and “the one who is unrighteous.” Jesus is saying, “Do not be unrighteous as the steward in the parable was, but be faithful stewards,” as those who will give an account to the Master. There are two crucial concepts here:

The concept of stewardship: God owns it; I manage it.

Implicit in Jesus’ teaching, both here and elsewhere, is that God owns everything and we are stewards or managers of what He has entrusted to us. We are stewards of our time, our abilities, and our possessions and money. In the parable, the steward was squandering his master’s possessions (16:1).

  • There is much debate over whether his action of reducing the bills of his master’s debtors was illegal or legal.
  • Some argue that his master had cleverly violated the Jewish laws against charging interest, and that the steward was rectifying the situation and putting the master in the awkward position of going along with the adjusted bills or else openly being guilty of charging interest.
  • Others say that the steward was giving up his own commission on the sales.
  • Others say that the steward was stealing from his master. We can’t know for sure, but it seems to me that the steward was not doing anything illegal or the master would have prosecuted him.

And yet, while staying within the letter of the law and acting within the authority given to him, the steward was not acting in his master’s best interests, but in his own.

Even though the master lost a lot of money through the steward’s actions, he grudgingly had to praise him for his shrewdness. But the fact is, although shrewd, the steward was still unrighteous or unfaithful because he was using his master’s money for his own selfish ends, not for the master’s profit.

One of the key concepts of being a steward is that the steward does not own what the master or owner has entrusted to him. He merely manages it for the owner’s purposes. If the steward begins to act as if he owns it, spending the owner’s resources for his personal betterment rather than for the owner’s benefit, he is an unrighteous, not a faithful, steward.

The principle of stewardship is a fundamental concept of Christian living. When you keep it in focus, it radically affects how you live. To be faithful as a steward, you must keep in mind at all times that you do not own your money; God does. You do not own your car; God does. You do not own your house; God does. You do not own your own life; God does.

To forget or ignore God’s purposes and to live as if what we have is ours to use for our purposes is to abuse our stewardship by being unfaithful.

The concept of accountability: Some day I must give an account to God for my stewardship.

Every business manager knows that the owner will be checking the books to see how things are going. If the business has been earning a profit for the owner, then the manager may get a raise. But if the manager has been skimming off the profits to finance his new yacht and his Mercedes, he’s going to be in trouble when the books are examined.

The idea of accountability is inherent in the concept of management or stewardship.

Crucial to being a good steward is understanding the owner’s purpose for his business. In the world, the purpose usually is to make all the money you can.

But what is our Master’s purpose? Jesus tells us in verse 9: And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Jesus reminds us that the world uses for unrighteous purposes, but which believers can use for God’s purposes.

Jesus means that just as the unrighteous steward used his master’s money to make friends for himself, so that when he got fired they would welcome him into their homes, so we should use our Master’s money to make friends for ourselves in heaven.

It refers to the friends who have become Christians because of our faithful stewardship. When earthly riches fail, as they surely will when we die, we will have friends in heaven who are there because of our godly actions.

Each of us must ask ourselves the sober question, “Am I managing the resources God has entrusted to me with a view to giving an account some day in light of His purpose of being glorified among all the nations through the spreading of the gospel?”

God is a generous and gracious Father, who gives to us not only enough for our basic needs, but also for our enjoyment. So, it is not wrong to enjoy many things beyond the bare essentials. But, if we grasp the concept of faithful stewardship and accountability, our focus will not be on our own financial success, but rather on the financial “success” of God’s enterprise, namely, the gospel.

Temporal versus eternal: Lay up treasures in heaven.

The second contrast consists of three contrasts that all point to the same thing, namely the temporal versus the eternal. Jesus is saying that the faithful steward will provide true riches for eternity in contrast to this unrighteous steward who provided himself only with temporal provisions.

Isn’t it ironic that to us, money is a big deal, but to God it’s “a very little thing”! If you don’t think that money is a big deal to people, even to God’s people, just ask some dear old saint to part with his or her riches for the sake of God’s work and see what kind of response you get!

God views our money as a very little thing. It is the litmus test by which God tests us to see if we can handle true riches, namely, souls. If we are faithful in managing the money God gives us for His purposes, He will entrust eternal souls into our care.

We will have eternal rewards in heaven, even if we don’t have much in terms of earthly possessions. The ironic thing is, you are 100 percent certain to lose all the money you accumulate on this earth—it will fail (16:9). You are 100 percent certain to keep all the rewards you lay up in heaven—they are your own (16:12), secure where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in to steal (Matt. 6:20).

And yet, most of God’s people major on laying up money on earth and minor on laying up treasure in heaven! Puritan Thomas Adams put it, “To part with what we cannot keep, that we may get that we cannot lose, is a good bargain. Wealth can do us no good, unless it help us toward heaven.”

God versus Mammon: Choose your Master.

In verse 13, Jesus draws the third contrast, that we either can serve God or money, but not both. So we must make a basic decision as to our choice of masters.

It is a delusion to think that you can own money. That is not one of the choices. Either God owns you, including your money, or your money owns you. Those are the only choices.

Most of us would like to think that there is some middle ground, where we can mostly serve God, but also keep one foot in worldly wealth. Jesus draws the line in the sand and makes us ask, “Who is my Master: God or money?”

Use present opportunities to provide for inevitable future realities.

Jesus is saying that unbelievers are often more shrewd in figuring out how to secure temporal wealth than believers are in figuring out how to secure eternal riches.

By shrewd, Jesus does not mean dishonest, but rather, as Webster defines it, “clever, discerning awareness; practical, hardheaded cleverness and judgment” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary [Merriam-Webster], p. 1091).

How was the unrighteous steward shrewd? In at least two ways. First, he was shrewd in that he seized an opportunity while he still had time to act. He saw the handwriting on the wall: his days were numbered! He was going to get fired. So he quickly went into action, using his authority while he still had time, to get on the good side of his master’s debtors.

The application for us is, if we hear of a window of opportunity for the gospel, we should do all we can to seize it while we can. If we hear of a good investment opportunity that is reasonably certain to earn a decent profit and we have the funds to invest, we would probably jump at the chance.

In the same way, if we hear of an opportunity for the gospel and God has given us funds to invest, we should go for it.

Second, the unrighteous steward was shrewd in that he used his present resources to provide for his inevitable future realities. He knew that he was going to be fired. While many would have despaired, he went into action, using what he had to provide for his future security.

The application for us is, we know that the time is soon coming when the money of unrighteousness will fail. We will die or Christ will return, and money won’t do us any good in heaven. But we can use our money now to store up treasures in heaven by making eternal friends through the gospel.

Can you imagine the joy someday of meeting someone in heaven who says, “Thank you for giving to the cause of world evangelization! Because you gave, missionaries came to my country and I got saved.”

Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 (ESV)

Myth #1 Wealth brings satisfaction (vs. 10). He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

Myth #2 Wealth solves every problem (vs. 11).  When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?

Myth #3 Wealth brings peace of mind (vs. 12). Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

Myth #4 Wealth provides security (vs. 13-17) There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14  and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.
15  As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16  This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17  Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

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Posted by on December 17, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Two Lost Sons – Luke 15:25-32

* Appreciation to Timothy Keller and Marvin Bryant

Many Christians today are very vocal about certain sins, like homosexuality and abortion. They have focused on those two practices as particularly wrong and offensive. And they are wrong.

When I was growing up, my church was very vocal about drinking. There were certainly lots of other things that were condemned, but those two seemed to have a special spotlight on them. I was told there was a time when church-folks didn’t approve of eating out on Sunday or reading a newspaper before noon; many churches spoke out against “playing card games” or “face cards” and even going to the movies.

Religious people always seem to have at least a few things that seem especially wrong to them and that they speak out against. It seems to me that usually it is matters of indulgence, like sexual sins and drinking. It’s not usually injustice or self-righteousness.

I don’t know if you have a little list of things that you think are especially sinful or offensive, but I do know it’s very easy to read the parable in Luke 15 and really look down on the younger brother.

After all, he was guilty of “wild living” (v. 13), and according to the older brother, “squandering your property with prostitutes” (v. 30).

  1. The young man wasn’t happy at home. He was restless. He wanted more. And his restlessness led him to rebellion. He rebelled against his father and all his father stood for. Maybe you can understand that, maybe you’ve felt some of that restlessness yourself—not really happy with life as it is. Feeling obligated to Christianity but secretly resenting the pleasures it withholds from you. Be careful with those thoughts—they can lead to a country far, far away from the Father.
  2. So this son demanded his share of the inheritance, immediately. But since inheritances are given after the passing of the parents, his impertinent demand could be easily be construed as wishing his father were dead. But even if he didn’t actually want his father to be dead, it’s clear he didn’t really want his father—he just wanted his father’s stuff. Many a Christian wants the blessings of God far more than they want God himself. And many a Christian wants to go to heaven, not because the father is there but merely to avoid going to hell.
  3. So this son gathered his stuff together, left his rightful home and traveled to distant country, far, far away from his father’s watchful eye. He didn’t want to live under the guidance or perhaps he would have said “restraints” of his father. Going in our own way instead of God’s way, always includes distancing ourselves from our Father.

In that far country, the young son squandered his wealth. He wasted everything. With no apparent thought of what he’d do when he used it all up.

And he wasted it in wild, reckless living, indulging his appetites and pleasures. If his brother’s demeaning statement in v. 30 is accurate, his wild living included prostitutes.

Repentance: realization and return. But at some point his money ran out and a famine moved in, and he began to feel the pain of his folly. He was in need, so he took a job feeding pigs, which would have been humiliating, especially to any Jew, he was so hungry he wanted to eat the pigs’ food, but no one gave him anything. No one was there for him.

He had hit rock bottom. But his misery was a gift that led him to his senses and ultimately back to his father.

I believe this part of the parable is describing repentance. The young son’s miserable condition brought him to his senses and led to a change. He realized things had been better at home with his father and he wanted to go back. He realized he wasn’t worthy—that his father deserved a better son than him.

Reunion and reception. The reunion and reception that awaited him were beyond his wildest dreams. The message is that God is love. And his love is lavish. If we have wandered away from him, we can come home. That’s true whether we’ve cut him off completely or continued to attend church services while we also found ways to live pretty much as we please.

Our father really, really loves us. And he really, really wants us to come home. And yes, we do have to head back home, but when we do, we will be received with lavish love and grace. He will open wide his arms of love, and so will we, his people, his representatives, his church.

One lesson we often miss: the father likely had the resources to send servants out and force the younger son back…but IF he had done that, his son would not “really be back home.”

The ‘pain of free-will is that we must usually allow the willful sinner reach ‘rock bottom’ so they will also come to their senses and truly choose to come home!

But we must allow time to look at the sins of the elder son/brother. It’s so easy to see the younger son sins that we may not even notice that the older brother was also a sinner.

One scholar did a careful analysis of the ingredients of the older brother’s words in the parable and found:

  • Anger (v. 28). I don’t believe anger is always wrong, but I believe this anger is wrong. The reason he’s angry is that his little brother has come home, and his father is throwing a lavish feast to celebrate his return. I’m pretty sure that is not righteous anger.
  • Disrespect of his father
  • Refused to enter the feast
  • Argued with his father about what he was doing
  • Distorted relationship with his father (slaving and never disobeying orders, v. 29)
  • In appropriate expectations of his father (never gave me a goat to celebrate with my friends, v. 29)
  • Lack of love and concern for his brother (You’d think he would be glad his brother had returned, but he wasn’t, “this son of yours” (v. 30))

So he was clearly sinful two, there are two dons lost in this parable. But let me ask you, honestly, do his sins seem as bad to you as the younger brother’s wild living?  If you were going to go on a tirade against sin, would you be more likely to call out wild living and prostitution or anger, disrespect, and distorted relationships?

As one person put it, the younger brother was guilty of sins of the body, sins of passion, and the older brother was guilty of sins of disposition. Which seems worst to you? And could it have anything to do with what sins we ourselves may or may not be guilty of?

Let’s take it one step further. What if we think about this not merely in terms of disrespecting our fathers but disrespecting our Father in heaven? What if God were throwing a party to celebrate something and you refused to come.

Not just you didn’t show up, but you refused to attend on principle, under protest. That’s not only disrespect, that’s extreme presumption. That is way too high of an opinion of ourselves.

So have we ever done that? Well, we probably haven’t ever refused to attend some official celebration. But what about our attitude toward people who do wrong and then ask for forgiveness.

Have you ever known someone who did something you thought was really wrong and then showed up at church and asked for forgiveness, and the leadership forgave them, but you weren’t sure they ought to get off that easy?

Maybe you took the line that they should at least have to bear some consequences? Isn’t that pretty similar to the attitude of the brother here? But if God is merciful toward such people and showers them with lavish love, with no scolding, no crossed arms, no I told you sos, no penance, shouldn’t we have the same attitude? But if, in contrast, we demand that they pay, aren’t we being disrespectful to our father?

And to expose our sinful hearts even more, have you ever not only resented a person being forgiven and getting attention but mixed in there somewhere had a secret wish that you could do some of the same things they did and “get away with it,” like you think they are?

And do you ever feel your relationship with God has a lot to do with you “slaving for him and never disobeying his orders”? How do you think God feels about that?

Is that the kind of relationship you think he wants with us? How would you feel if you overheard one of your children describe you as a parent to their friends by saying “you have to work for them all the time and you better not ever disobey them.” What if they thought that was the essence of their relationship with you?

And what expectations do you have of God? Maybe not a goat to celebrate with your friends, but maybe certain rights and protections and benefits and blessings. Have you ever felt you were being cheated because some job or dispute or opportunity didn’t go your way, even though you always slave away for God and never disobey his orders?

My point in all of this is to try to help us see that the older brother is a sinner too. This is a parable about 2 Sons Lost, not just one.

But once we’ve seen that, there’s really good news: God is full of love for us even if we’ve done those sorts of things too. Even if most of our sins have been sins of disposition or attitude. Did you notice God went out to the older brother too? (v. 28). He wants him to be at the feast too. He wants him to be in the house too.

No, he didn’t throw a feast for him, nor did he run out and cover him with kisses, but remember the older son hadn’t had a change of heart either. At this point in the story, the older son is a sinner and he hasn’t shown any signs of repentance, yet the father goes out to him too.

Timothy Keller says for the most part younger brothers are not attracted to churches. Keller says that Jesus consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day, but that our churches do essentially the opposite: we attract the religious folks and repel the irreligious.

And Keller says that can only mean one thing. And then he gives a quote that really disturbed me: If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our members do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the message Jesus did.

If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

That’s worth all of us taking time this week to make certain it is less true more and more.

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Posted by on December 10, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: What We Can Learn From Tragedies Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9 (ESV)
1  There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2  And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
3  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
4  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
5  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

6  And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
7  And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’
8  And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.
9  Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

In the past years we have been shocked by the massacre at high schools in Colorado and Florida….. shootings in malls and even in church buildings. We also saw stunned people in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama who in a few minutes lost everything they owned when killer tornadoes, hurricanes and floods swept through their neighborhoods.

We hear of earthquakes that kill thousands in other countries. We get nightly reports on the horrors of the war in foreign countries. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases.

Jesus used an illustration at the close of chapter 12 of a man who is going to be dragged into court with a losing lawsuit against him. If he is smart, he will quickly settle with his opponent before it’s too late. The point is, we all have a debt of sin toward God. If we are aware of our situation, we will be quick to get right with God before we come into judgment.

Jesus was speaking to men who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves. From His reply, we can also surmise that these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, whereas the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God.

Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3, 5) He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Then Jesus tells a parable (13:6-9) that underscores the point: If you don’t repent, you will soon face God’s judgment.

Jesus often used this technique. He didn’t let people sit back and analyze a subject; instead, he frequently confronted them, pressing them to reevaluate their lives in light of God’s perfect law (see Jesus’ answer to the lawyer in 10:25-37).

Set aside a time to evaluate your speech, thought, and actions, according to God’s standards. Leave enough time to confess your faults to Jesus and to receive the forgiveness you need to start anew.

Thus rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? Our Lord’s answer is, Tragedies should teach us that since death and judgment are imminent, we need to be ready through true repentance.

Let me make a passing comment on our Lord’s method here:

  • He could have used this occasion to launch into a critique of Pilate’s cruel ways, but He would have missed the spiritual opportunity.
  • He could have plunged into a philosophical discussion of the problem of evil, but His hearers would have gone away unchanged.
  • Instead, the Lord took this general topic and homed in on the consciences of those who had raised the subject. He applies it to them twice, and then He further drives it home with the parable.

The lesson for us is to take common subjects that come up, like the tragedies in Colorado and in Oklahoma, and apply them to the person’s need to get right with God before he stands before Him.

Philosophic discussions are fairly safe; but Jesus turned such discussions into the personal need for repentance. He always had in view the need of sinful souls before the holy God.

Suffering has nothing to do with one’s spiritual state. In fact, all people are sinful, and unless people repent, they will all perish as they did.

Jesus explained that all people are sinners who must repent or they too will perish—spiritual death with eternal consequences. People never know when they will die and be called to face their Maker.

Just as believers should be ready for any moment when Christ will return, so they should be ready for any moment when they could be taken in death.

Whether a person is killed in a tragic accident or miraculously survives is not a measure of righteousness. Everyone has to die; that’s part of being human. But not everyone needs to stay dead. Jesus promised that those who repent of their sins and believe in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

13:6-7 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?'”NRSV After highlighting the need for repentance, Jesus told this parable to show the people that while God is gracious in giving people time to repent, come to him, and grow in him, that patience will not go on forever.

In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used as a symbol of godly living. Jesus pointed out what would happen to the other kind of tree—the kind that took valuable time and space and still produced nothing for the patient gardener.

A fig tree in the fertile soil of a vineyard should certainly have produced fruit—a tree that did not produce for three years was probably not going to produce at all. The farmer gave the command to cut it down so another, more fruitful tree could be planted in its place.

13:8-9 “The gardener answered, ‘Give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, you can cut it down.'”NLT The gardener intervened and asked the owner to give [the tree] one more chance. He even offered to give it special attention and fertilizer.

Jesus had come to the nation; the time for repentance had come. The extra attention and love had been showered on the nation in the presence of their Messiah. God’s judgment had been graciously held back. But if the people continued to refuse to “bear fruit” for God—if they continued to refuse to live for and obey him—the end would come.

The tree would be cut down. There would be no more chances. God is merciful toward sinners. But for those who reject him, he will not be merciful forever. They will be punished.

The role of the vineyard-keeper, who appeals to the owner to give him time to dig around the tree and fertilize it, in the hopes that it will yet bear fruit the next year. “If not,” he says, “cut it down.” This is a beautiful picture of God’s patience and mercy in Christ. As 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

   God patiently allows more time. Do you suffer from an addiction that has spoiled your life for years? Lots of people have given up on you, but not God. Have you resisted coming to faith, forgiving your family, or admitting a crime—and the festering secret has spoiled friendships and jobs?

Maybe you’ve given up on yourself. But God has not given up on you. Give your problem to him. With the support of mature Christians, seek the help you need. Make the change today

There are two kinds of tragedies in the text: those caused by evil people; and, those caused by accidents or natural disasters. But the worst tragedy, as Jesus shows, will be the final judgment (“perish”), which involves not only physical death, but also spiritual death or eternal separation from God in hell (12:5). If we learn rightly from earthly tragedies, we will avoid the ultimate and final tragedy. So what should we learn from tragedies?

Tragedies show us that life is fragile and that we must get right with God before we die and face judgment. Life is very fragile! Even though you are healthy and young, you could be in your coffin tonight.

Examples of Brother Clevenger (led a prayer on Wednesday night to dismiss our assembly and was buried on Saturday.

Dad (hosted a group in his home on Sunday night and was buried on Wednesday afternoon).

The test of true repentance is fruitfulness. The parable (13:6-9) underscores the message of 13:1-5, that judgment is approaching and that we must bring forth the fruits of repentance before it is too late.

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Posted by on December 3, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Lessons on Gratitude – Luke 17:7-19

In verses 7-19 Luke provides us with two lessons on gratitude. The first lesson is taught by our Lord to the apostles. He compares His relationship to them to the relationship between a master and his slave (verses 7-9). He then applies this to the attitude of His disciples toward their obedience (verses 10-19).

In the first instance, it is the master who is not obligated to have gratitude towards the obedience of his slave; in the second, it is the recipient of God’s grace who is to have gratitude toward God. Let us consider these two lessons on gratitude, and then seek to discover how they relate to faith and forgiveness.

The Hard-Working Slave Luke 17:7-10 (ESV)
7  “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

As was often the case, Jesus began to teach with a story. He speaks from the vantage point of a culture which practices, understands, and to some degree accepts slavery. We find this lesson very strange, even distasteful. Remember, however, that the slave belonged to his master. He belonged completely to him. Thus, the master could be very severe in his demands, especially in comparison to our culture.

In our society, our Lord might have told the story of the man who filled out his income tax form. The form was neatly filled out, with all the supporting facts and figures. Along with the form, mailed before April 15th, there was a check for the taxes which were due.

Any of the apostles would understand the relationship between a master and his slave. None of them, if they had a slave who had either been out all day plowing or tending sheep, would be welcomed home that night with a hot meal. Instead, the master would rightly expect his slave to clean up, change his clothes, and then fix him his meal. Only after this would the slave be free to care for his own needs. And when the slave had perfectly carried out all of his duties for the day, no one would expect the master to come to him, put an arm around his shoulder, and tell him how good a job he had done. Masters felt no obligation to pamper their slaves, nor to praise them.

Surely, Jesus might say, this man would not expect a call or a thank you note from the IRS or from the President of the United States, expressing the government’s gratitude for obedience to the laws of the land. Paying taxes is our duty, one for which we expect no gratitude if we obey exactly as required, but one which we expect punishment for failing to perform.

The Pharisees really believed that by their outward compliance with the Law—that is, their interpretation of it—that they could merit God’s favor. They saw, for example, that their prosperity was the logical and necessary outcome of their piety. Thus, they felt little gratitude toward God, for what they got, they deserved (in their minds). Gratitude, to them, was an obligation which fell more on God, than upon them.

God warned the Israelites of this danger, even before they entered the promised land. In the early chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, God reminded His people of His blessings, all of which were a matter of grace, in spite of their disobedience, grumbling, and all around nastiness. He also warned them that when they entered the promised land they would, once again, partake of the fruits of His grace, but that they would be inclined to credit themselves for these blessings. In other words, Israel would look upon God as obligated to bless them, rather than to be grateful for His grace.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (ESV)
11  “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
12  lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
13  and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
14  then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
15  who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
16  who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
17  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

How to Respond to God’s Blessings – Luke 17:11-19

This story, unique to Luke, highlights the faith of a foreigner in Israel. One of the major themes of Luke is the remarkable faith of Gentiles. Although many of the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus, a number of foreigners wholeheartedly placed their trust in him (7:1-10). This theme is continued in the book of Acts, where Luke wrote how the gospel message spread to the Gentiles after the initial rejection of it by many of the Jews.

17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.NIV

Jesus was still on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that he had an “appointment” there in order for his ministry to be completed (9:51; 13:22). Jesus was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Galilee was Jewish; Samaria was occupied by Samaritans, who were despised by the Jews.

17:12-13 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”NLT

In the Bible, leprosy is a dreaded disease that is a picture of sin. This is alluded to in our text by the fact that the lepers are cleansed (17:14, 17). Leprosy rendered a man ceremonially defiled, so that if he was healed, he still had to go to the priest and carry out an extensive ritual of cleansing before he could be accepted back into the religious community and worship (Lev. 14).

In the Bible “leprosy” can refer to a number of skin diseases, but in its worst form, it was what we know as Hansen’s disease (R. K. Harrison, The New Testament Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. by Colin Brown {Zondervan], 2:463-466). This awful disease takes two forms (according to R. H. Pousma, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. by Merrill Tenney [Zondervan], 2:138-139). Both start with either a white or pink discoloration of a patch of skin. The more benign form is limited to this skin discoloration in a number of places, and even untreated cases heal in from one to three years.

William Barclay (The Daily Study Bible: Matthew [Westminster Press], 1:295) describes the hideous progression of the worse form of this disease:

It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal chords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma and ultimately death.

Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches.

While the physical disease was horrible, the terrible social consequences in ancient Israel only added to the misery. According to Josephus, lepers were treated “as if they were, in effect, dead men” (cited by Barclay). The Mosaic Law prescribed that the person be cut off from society, including his family. He had to wear torn clothing, have his head uncovered, cover his lips and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went to warn others to keep their distance (Lev. 13:45).

Jesus encounters ten such wretched men who had banded together. If the nine were Jews, their common tragedy had broken down the traditional separation between the Jews and the half-breed Samaritans, who were considered as Gentiles. They were all outcasts, separated from the common worship and separated from their own people, seemingly under God’s curse.

People who had leprosy were required to try to stay away from other people and to announce their presence if they had to come near. Thus these ten lepers were standing at a distance, outside the city, and they were crying out to Jesus for mercy. They called Jesus Master—they knew who he was and what he could do for them. They did not try to get close, however, perhaps because of the crowd that was probably still following Jesus.

17:14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, their leprosy disappeared.NLT

Sometimes leprosy would go into remission. If a leper thought his leprosy had gone away, the leper was supposed to present himself to a priest, who could declare him clean (Leviticus 14). Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priest before they were healed, for as they went, their leprosy disappeared.

Jesus did not touch these men or even speak words of healing as he had done for most of his healings. This time he simply gave them the command to go . . . to the priests.

Jesus was asking the men to respond in faith that, by their obedience, what they desired would happen. All the men responded in faith, and Jesus healed them on the way.

17:15-16 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.NLT

Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned to thank him. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit—nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing, and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace.

God does not demand that his people thank him, but he is pleased when they do so. And he uses their responsiveness to teach them more about himself.

The grateful man returned to Jesus, praised God, fell face down, and thanked Jesus. Luke added, almost as a parenthesis, that, by the way, this man was a Samaritan. As noted in the commentary at 9:52-53, the Samaritans were a race despised by the Jews as idolatrous half-breeds. The surprise of this story is that this Samaritan, used to being despised by Jews (except perhaps for his fellow lepers), would dare to go to this Jewish healer and prostrate himself before him. But this man’s faith went deep enough that he saw God’s hand in the healing. Once again Luke was pointing out that God’s grace is for everybody. The Samaritan not only portrayed the same trust that Jesus brought to the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37) but also set the stage for Jesus’ mission to all people (see Acts 8:4).

17:17-19 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well.”NLT

Jesus had been distressed many times with his own people’s lack of acceptance and faith:

Luke 7:9 (ESV) When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Luke 8:25 (ESV) He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Luke 12:28 (ESV) But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

This time was no different. Ten men had been healed, but only one, the foreigner (referring to the man from Samaria), came back to give glory to God. Jesus was not so much concerned about being thanked as he was about the men’s understanding of what had happened. The other nine went off, free from leprosy but not necessarily free from sin through the salvation Jesus could offer. This one man was freed, so Jesus sent him on his way with the knowledge that his faith had made him well. He not only had a restored body, his soul had been restored as well.

Jesus’ miracles of healing provide wonderful encouragement, for they reveal his power and his compassion. The difficulty comes from applying these accounts today. How should believers pray for themselves and loved ones who are sick or terminally ill? How should they believe? This story provides not all the answers but some insights into Jesus’ healing of the sick.
·       These lepers recognized Jesus’ authority. They did not demand that he heal them. They called out for Jesus to have mercy on them (17:13).
·       Jesus emphasized the necessity of faith (17:19). Just as in the parable of the mustard seed (13:18-19), it is not the size of faith but the presence of genuine faith that is important.
·       Jesus stressed public testimony. He directed the lepers to go to the priests (17:14) to demonstrate what God had done. Believers also must be prepared to give God the credit when they are healed.
·       Jesus highlighted the need for gratitude and praise to God (17:18). Will your attitude be grateful to God despite the outcome of your prayer? Can you trust fully in God’s care each day, living or dying?
Christians should always be the ones who return to Jesus and thank him for his mercy and power.

A story is told of a man who was lost in the woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had even finally knelt and prayed. Someone asked, “Did God answer your prayer?” “Oh, no,” the man replied. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the way out.”

Like that man, many people are blind to the many blessings that God daily showers upon them. They awake to see the sun shining, and do not give thanks to God. They hear the birds chirping and see beautiful flowers and trees, but they don’t give it a moment’s thought that God has given those blessings and given them the senses to enjoy them.

They grumble about having to eat the same old cereal, forgetting that many would gladly exchange places with them and eat anything for breakfast.

They complain about their jobs, forgetting that many would be grateful just to have a job or even to have the bodily strength to go to work.

They complain about their lack of money, forgetting that they spend more on entertainment each month than many around the world earn as their total income.

Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or a person who does not even believe in God, the fact is, God has blessed you far more than you realize and far more than you deserve. It is important to understand how to respond properly to God’s abundant blessings.

To be oblivious to the fact that God is blessing you or, even worse, to take credit for His blessings as if you earned them by your own efforts, would be to slight God.

The only proper response is to glorify Him from a thankful heart. These two responses, the proper and improper, are illustrated for us in this story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers. Only one of the ten responded properly. He teaches us that …

We should respond to God’s blessings by glorifying Him at Jesus’ feet from thankful hearts.

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Posted by on November 26, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: The Glory of Christ – The Transfiguration Luke 9:27-36

What is the greatest event in your life? What about the greatest religious experience in your life? Hopefully, for most of us it would be the same event. I suspect if you could ask Peter, James, and John that question, they would answer, t was the day we went with Jesus to the mountain to pray, and He was transfigured in our sight.

We know that Peter never forgot that day, for he wrote: 2 Peter 1:17 (ESV) 17  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This was truly a mountaintop experience for Peter.

The Transfiguration is one of the most sublime scenes of all sacred history. It occurred about a week after Jesus had promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). This event took place on a mountain that was probably on the road between Caesarea Philippi and Jerusalem.

Lk 9:28 with Mt 17:1, Mk 9:2 28About eight {sixMT, MK} days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a {highMT, MK} mountain to pray {where they were all aloneMK}.

They were the select three on other occasions as well. Of all the apostles, maybe these three were best prepared in heart and life for the purpose Jesus had in mind. Paul later referred to them as men “who were reputed to be pillars” (Galatians 2:9).

Lk 9:29-32 with Mt 17:2, Mk 9:2-3 29As he was praying, {he was transfigured before them,MT, MK} the appearance of his face changed {shone like the sunMT}, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning {as white as the light,MT} {dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach themMK}.

 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two me Lord {Rabbi,MK} {MasterLK}, it is good for us to be here. If you wish {let us,MK, LK} I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. {6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)MK}

5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my Son, whom I love {whom I have chosen;LK} with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don’t be afraid. {8Suddenly,MK} 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

What were the reasons behind this event?

  1. For one thing, it was God’s seal of approval to Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:14).
  2. It was also the Father’s way of encouraging the Son as He began to make His way to Jerusalem. The Father had spoken at the baptism (Luke 3:22) and would speak again during that final week of the Son’s earthly ministry (John 12:23-28). Beyond the suffering of the cross would be the glory of the throne, a lesson that Peter emphasized in his first epistle (1 Peter. 4:12-5:4).
  3. Our Lord’s own words in Luke 9:27 indicate that the event was a demonstration (or illustration) of the promised kingdom of God. This seems logical, for the disciples were confused about the kingdom because of Jesus’ words about the cross. Jesus was reassuring them that the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled, but first He had to suffer before He could enter into His glory (note especially 2 Peter 1:12-21).

   Why, in particular, did Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus? Both of these men had, during their time on earth, met with God on a mountain (Exodus 24; 1 Kings 19). Both men also had departed from this earth in an unusual way—Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11); Moses was buried by the Lord (Deuteronomy 34:6), and the location of his body became a matter of great speculation (Jude 9).

These men represented the sweeping vista of God’s plan of salvation across the ages. Moses represented the Law, or the Old Covenant. He had written the Pentateuch and had predicted the coming of a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Elijah represented the prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6). Together they confirmed Jesus’ mission: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 niv).

These men were talking with Jesus . . . about his departure, which was about to happen in Jerusalem. The “departure” referred to Jesus’ death. The word for “departure” is exodos, an unusual word to use for death, yet a helpful word picture. As Moses delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt through their exodus from there, even more significantly, Jesus would deliver people from bondage through his “exodus” from this life. His death, which would happen on a dusty hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, would accomplish true freedom for all people who believe in him. It would happen according to God’s divine plan (see 1 Peter 1:19-20).

DOWN IN THE VALLEY When they came down from this great experience, they found problems among the ones left behind. What a powerful lesson can be learned!

Mk 9:17-19 with Mt 17:14-17, Lk 9:37 17A man in the crowd {approached Jesus and knelt before himMT} answered {called out,LK} {Lord, have mercy on my son.MT} Teacher, I brought you my son {for he is my only child,LK} {he has seizures and is suffering greatlyMT} who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, {he suddenly screams,LK} it throws him to the ground {into convulsions.LK} He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. {It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.LK} I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit {heal him,MT} but they could not.

19O unbelieving {and perverseMT, LK} generation, Jesus replied, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.

A boy had been brought to them by his father because he had an unclean spirit which seized him, and he would suddenly cry out. His father said, t throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him (9:39).

The apostles who were left behind had tried to heal the boy but were unsuccessful. How frustrating to them! They had been given power over unclean spirits. Why could they not cast them out? Jesus answer, according to Matthew’s Gospel, was that this kind comes out only through prayer.

While Jesus and the three disciples had been up in the mountain praying, the others had not taken the time to pray. Even miraculous powers were left weak when not sustained by prayer. How much more must this be the case with regard to nonmiraculous powers. As we try to help others, we must take time to pray.

Jesus rebuked the apostles, saying, O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your son here (9:41). Jesus healed the boy and presented him to his father. Two lessons must stand out.

First, unless you take time away from the crowd for prayer and renewal, you will often come up empty when you so desperately want to help someone. Even in our dedication to serve God, we sometimes overload our bodies and our spirits so that we have nothing left when the hour of crisis comes. Thus, let us learn to take time away from the realities of daily life. Go on the retreats; take time for the lecture programs and workshops; get away with a few who share the same faith and dedication we do.

Second, mountaintop experiences have value only when we bring them down from the mountain to where people are hurting. The cry for help was still ringing out in the valley. People were still agonizing with life. Many today do not view worship services today as a mountaintop experience to help us with life. Instead, our worship is seen as a part of the humdrum activity that we must endure.

Too little of what is learned on Sunday is applied on Monday. Learn from worship and study of His Word and apply what you learn to your everyday life to make it better.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them {gave them ordersMK}, Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. {10They kept the matter to themselvesMK} {and told no one at that time what they had seen,LK} {discussing what rising from the dead meant.MK} 10The disciples asked him, Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?

11Jesus replied, To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. {Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?MK} In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Mk 9:20-24 with Lk 9:42 20So they brought him. When the spirit {demonLK} saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, How long has he been like this?

From childhood, he answered. 22It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

23If you can? said Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

THE MAJESTY OF GOD And they were all amazed at the greatness of God (9:43). Note that the majesty was not seen clearest on the mountain with Jesus face aglow, but in the valley in helping a lad in trouble.

It is always easiest to see God’s majesty against the background of helping hurting people overcome their hurts. It was with the marvel still in their hearts that Jesus challenged the disciples to allow something to sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men (9:44).

 Mk 9:25-29 with Mt 17:18, 20, Lk 9:42b-43 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. You deaf and mute spirit, he said, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.

26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, He’s dead. 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. {[H]e was healed from that momentMT} {and [Jesus] gave him back to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.LK} 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, Why couldn’t we drive it out?

29He replied, {Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.MT} This kind can come out only by prayer.

30They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after {onMT} three days he will rise. 32But they did not understand what he meant {it was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it,LK} and were afraid to ask him about it. {And the disciples were filled with grief.MT}


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Posted by on November 19, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Why Crucify Self? Luke 9:24-26 (ESV)

24  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
25  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
26  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Motivation is the key to doing some things that you’d rather not do. Sometimes the motivation is negative: Read the assignment or you’ll flunk the course. At other times, it may be more positive.

Jesus has just said some difficult things about His going to the cross and the fact that if anyone wants to follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily. As we saw in our last study, Jesus was talking about denying our selfishness and daily putting to death our sinful desires. Jesus’ words raise the question, “Why would anyone want to crucify himself every day?” Frankly, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun! So Jesus goes on to give the explanation and motivation for why a person would want to do this. Verses 24, 25, and 26 all begin with the word “for.” Jesus is explaining why it is essential to live in the difficult manner He has just outlined in verse 23. To put it in the first person:

I should deny myself and take up my cross daily because I live in view of eternity.

Each of these three verses focuses on the eternal perspective. In verse 24, Jesus shows that there is a paradox: the person who seeks to save his life by not denying self in the short run will lose his life in the end. In verse 25 He shows that the profit of living for this world will be nothing compared with eternal loss of one’s soul. In verse 26 He shows that the temporary shame of being identified with Jesus and His teaching is a small thing compared with having Jesus ashamed of us at His glorious second coming.

In these three verses, Jesus shows us that to live wisely in the here and now, we must keep our focus on eternity:

1. The disciple daily crucifies self because he wants ultimately to be saved (9:24).

Jesus here presents a paradox that applies both to our ultimate salvation and to temporal matters of discipleship. If we pursue our own agenda, we will lose in the end. But, if we let go of our selfish aims and entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus, living for His purposes, seeking His will, we will gain eternal life when we die and multiplied blessings while we live. Verse 24 is really just a restatement of Matthew 6:33 in its context. If we eagerly seek all the things the world seeks, we will come up empty. But if we abandon that pursuit and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, all these necessary things will be added unto us.

The principle applies first and foremost to the eternal salvation of our souls. The way of the world is that we seek eternal salvation by our good works in this life: Go to church, give money, do deeds of kindness and mercy, try to live a moral life, and you will earn salvation. But that approach does not deal the death blow to our pride. Rather, it feeds pride. If our approach to eternal life is that we merit it by our good deeds, we can look down on those who are not as good as we are. We mistakenly think that we can commend ourselves to God. But the fatal fallacy in this approach is that it does not deal with our sin before the holy God.

The cross, coupled with the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, deals the death blow to our pride, as Paul clearly shows in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. As Paul there sums it up (1:28, 29), “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 flesh should boast before God.”

Salvation is of the Lord, not of us. So the disciple abandons any self-approach to salvation (self-righteousness or good deeds) and casts himself completely on Jesus Christ to save. By losing his life, he gains it.

But the principle of Luke 9:24 also applies to all of the Christian life. It applies to our money, which is not ours, but the Lord’s. We mistakenly think that we gain financial security by hoarding our money and giving away very little. While the Scripture teaches that it is prudent to put aside enough to provide for future anticipated needs (Prov. 6:6-11; 2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Tim. 5:8), it also teaches that if we are generous in giving, God will generously supply all our needs (Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:8-11).

The principle of losing our life to gain it applies to our service to others. If we live for ourselves, never thinking of the needs of others, we will be lonely, miserly people. But if we give generously of our time in serving others for Jesus’ sake, it comes back to us many times over. I often find that if I give time that I don’t have to spare, the Lord makes up the time to me in other ways.

The principle also applies to your family life. Husbands are commanded to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25-33). Such sacrificial love requires thinking often of your wife and her needs, and seeking to meet those needs. It means praying for your wife. It means serving her, even if you don’t get to pursue your favorite pastimes.

But many husbands think only of themselves. They want the family to serve them. They selfishly think, “I work hard all day. If I come home and serve my family, when will I get time for my needs to be met?” But if you serve your mate and your children, it comes back to you in the form of love, kindness, and close, caring relationships. But if you selfishly dig in your heels and say, “I’m not going to serve them any more than they serve me,” you’ll lose by not having your needs met at all.

The principle also applies to your relationship with the Lord. Many Christians think, “If I spend time in Bible reading, meditation on the things of God, and prayer, I won’t get everything done that I have to do.” They live at a frantic pace, seldom taking the time to spend in God’s presence, thinking about the things above and the life to come. They end up burning out, having stress-induced physical problems, and all sorts of other crises that make life careen out of control. But if we die to self by putting time with God as a priority, He puts the rest of life into perspective.

So the first motivating reason to die daily to self for Jesus’ sake is that when we do, He brings the blessings of salvation back upon us in the long run. When we live for self, we may gain in the short term, but we’ll come up empty in view of eternity.

2. The disciple daily crucifies self because he recognizes that this world is insignificant and fleeting in light of eternity (9:25).

If we could only keep it in mind: This life is a fleeting millisecond in light of eternity. And yet we devote all of our time and energy as if we will be on this earth forever and as if there were no eternity! Richard Baxter, in his profound book, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest ([Sovereign Grace Book Club], p. 151), writes,

Lord, what a strange madness is this, that men, who know they must presently enter upon unchangeable joy or pain, should yet live as uncertain what shall be their doom, as if they never heard of any such state; yea, and live as quietly and merrily in this uncertainty, as if all were made sure, and there were no danger! Are they awake or asleep? What do they think on? Where are their hearts? If they have but a weighty suit at law, how careful are they to know whether it will go for or against them! If they were to be tried for their lives at an earthly bar, how careful would they be to know whether they should be saved or condemned, especially, if their care might surely save them! If they be dangerously sick, they will inquire of the physician, What think you, sir, shall I escape, or not? But in the business of their salvation, they are content to be uncertain.

Someone recently told me of a young man whose family used to attend this church. He had become very successful in worldly terms. He picked up a friend to show him his new Ferrari, but never returned. They found the crashed car with the two young men’s bodies several days later. He gained the world, but may well have lost his soul.

The irony of Jesus’ perceptive statement is magnified by the fact that few of us ever come close to gaining the whole world. But even if we could do it, Jesus says, what good is it if we forfeit our own soul? Alexander the Great conquered vast territories and even ordered that he be worshiped as god, but he caught a fever and died at age 33. What good did his conquests do him in light of eternity? Just over 50 years ago, Adolf Hitler tried to conquer the world, but he ended up committing suicide when his plans failed. Some business tycoons, like Ted Turner, reject God and commit themselves to amassing a fortune. He owns more land than almost any other human being. But he soon will die and face God’s judgment with nothing to cover his sin.

The Christian life must be lived daily by keeping in view the shortness of this life and the insignificance of the things of this world in light of eternity. When he was just 19, Jonathan Edwards wrote down 34 resolutions that he committed himself to practice for God’s glory. Number 9 was, “To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:xx). That may strike you as a bit morbid for a young man, but Edwards was seeking to live in the light of eternity. A few months later he wrote, “I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age” (ibid., 1:xxii).

To apply this, think about being at the end of your life. None of us knows how long we’ll live, but assume that the Lord gives you 80 years. In light of eternity, what would you want to accomplish as you look back on your life from that point? In light of this, write out a purpose statement that sums up what you want God to do through you in the years He gives you. Then write out some specific goals for the coming year in light of that overall purpose. Then, whether you live to be 80 or 40, you won’t spend your time trying to gain the world while losing your soul.

3. The disciple daily crucifies self because he lives in the light of the second coming of Jesus to judge the world (9:26).

Although Jesus had just predicted His own rejection and death (9:22), He makes it clear that that will not be the final chapter. He will come again in His own glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. The apostle Paul describes that awesome event as a time “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). The Lord Jesus described His own “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:30, 31).

A main reason I should deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow Jesus is that He is coming again in power and glory to judge everyone. Either He will be ashamed of me on that day or He will confess me favorably before the Father and say to me, “Well done, good and faithful slave… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23). I don’t know whether Jesus will speak to me in English or whether He will give me the ability to understand Hebrew or whatever language is spoken in heaven. But in English, you can tell by a person’s lips whether he is going to say, “Depart from Me” or “Well done.” I try to live each day so that when I stand before the Lord Jesus in all His glory, I see His lips form the words, “Well done.”

Note that Jesus says that there is the danger that we will be ashamed of Him and His words. He spoke often, more than anyone else in the Bible, about hell. Are you embarrassed to warn people about hell? It’s not a popular doctrine in our day of tolerance and relativism. It would be much easier to drop Jesus’ many references to hell out of our conversations with unbelievers: “Let’s take a more positive approach, telling them about God’s love, not about His judgment. It sells better.” I’m not advocating that we go to the other extreme and become insensitive, judgmental hell fire and damnation witnesses. But I am saying that if we do not lovingly warn people of the danger of hell and judgment, we are probably being ashamed of Jesus’ words.

Another hard thing Jesus spoke about is the inability of sinners to come to Him apart from the sovereign grace of God. Jesus spoke very plainly about this in John 6:26-65, where He repeats in verse 65 what He had already stated in verse 44: “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” This is a hard doctrine! Thus verse 66 states, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.” They didn’t like Jesus’ teaching because the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace humble the pride of the human heart. But we must bow before the hard sayings of Jesus, as well as the words that we like, if we confess Him as Savior and Lord.

To obey Luke 9:26, we have to elevate the fear of God above the fear of people. Later, in the context of repeating a similar warning about confessing Him before men (12:8, 9), Jesus says, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (9:4, 5). If we live each day in light of Jesus’ glorious return to judge the earth, we can daily deny self in order to confess Him before others.

If we would keep in mind that life is very short and that eternity is just ahead, it would concentrate our minds wonderfully! Even though it is difficult and painful, we would daily put self on the cross and follow Jesus because we will soon stand before Him on judgment day. Instead of getting caught up with the things of this world, we would live in view of the world to come. The reality of eternity is the motivation for living obediently now, even though it means a slow, painful death to self.

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Posted by on November 15, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Our Inadequacy, Christ’s Adequacy – Luke 9:10-17

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in serving the Lord? We are needy people serving Christ in a needy world. It’s not unusual at this time of year to hear of thousands who have lost everything due to a hurricane, and that doesn’t take into consideration those in the world who live every day from meal to meal.

I often think of the millions who have yet to hear about the Savior who came to earth ‘just for them.’ We likely feel overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and with our own inadequacy. How can I possibly meet the needs of this church, let alone the massive needs of this hurting world?

No passage of Scripture has had a more profound impact on our service for Christ than the gospel accounts of the feeding of the 5,000. It could be argued that it is the most significant miracle Jesus performed, since it’s the only one God saw fit to record in all four gospels….with the obvious exception to the resurrection.  I find myself coming back to its lessons again and again.

The Lord used this incident for the training of the twelve. We see this in His pointed challenge, “You give them something to eat!” John’s account (6:6) tells us that Jesus was testing them (especially Philip), knowing what He was about to do.

The miracle itself is almost passed over. We are never told exactly how Jesus did it. The focus is not on the spectacular nature of the miracle, but on what it teaches those who serve Jesus about how He meets the needs of others through them.

Christ will give us His adequacy to meet the needs of people if we yield our inadequacy to Him.

Three things stand out in this story: the needy multitudes; the inadequate disciples; and the adequate Savior.

1. People are needy.

The apostles returned from their first preaching tour and gave an account to Jesus of all that they had done (9:10). Jesus withdrew with them to the vicinity of Bethsaida, on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark’s account (6:31) tells us that the purpose of the getaway was rest.

The fact that this many people would go to this effort to be with Jesus shows how needy they were. If you had taken a survey of the crowd, many would have said that their greatest need was for physical healing. There were blind, deaf, lame, diseased and dying people there.

By the end of the day, others would have said that their greatest need was for food. There was nothing to eat in that desolate place. But whether anyone recognized it or not, each person’s greatest need was spiritual.

Jesus could heal their bodies and fill their stomachs, but that was only a stopgap measure if they perished in their sins. So Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God, how they could rightly be related to Him: Luke 9:11 (ESV) When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

2. We are inadequate to meet the overwhelming needs of people.

Did you notice the contrast between Jesus’ attitude toward the multitude and that of the disciples? Jesus welcomed them (9:11), but the disciples said to Jesus, “Send the multitude away” (9:12).

Jesus said something utterly ridiculous: “You give them something to eat” (9:13). There were 5,000 men, plus women and children. If there were 2.5 children for each man and woman, we’re talking about providing dinner for a crowd half the population of many cities in Alabama!

All the food the disciples could come up with was five loaves and two fish, which came from a little boy (John 6:9). The entire incident underscores the utter inadequacy of the disciples to meet this overwhelming need.

The manner in which Jesus performed this miracle is significant. He could have called down manna from heaven. Calling down manna would have fit the situation. It would have been easier on the twelve. It would have been more efficient.

The Lord could have spoken the word and a loaf of bread would have miraculously appeared in each person’s hand. Everyone would have been more awed at Jesus’ power than they were with the quiet way this miracle was done.

Jesus could have called angels who could have taken the bread from His hand and flown directly to each group and given them the food. People would have been amazed. They would have talked about it for the rest of their lives.

But how did Jesus do it? He used the disciples to distribute the bread and fish to the people. I’m convinced that the Lord did the miracle that way to teach the disciples that His method for meeting the needs of a lost world is through people. Christ meets the needs of people through people. But note carefully the kind of people He uses: Inadequate people!

Jesus uses tired, emotionally drained people. The disciples had just returned from their first preaching tour. Jesus knew they were tired and needed a rest. But their only rest had been the short trip across the lake. True, Jesus let them rest all day as He taught and healed the multitude. But, still, their tiredness and emotional condition comes through in their request, “Send them away.”

Jesus uses busy people. They didn’t even have time to eat because of all the people coming and going. I thought that our hectic schedules were unique to our culture, but apparently not! I have worked as a banquet waiter, so I know that once they started handing out the food to this huge crowd, they were busy men! But invariably the Lord doesn’t use people with extra time on their hands. He uses those who are busy and He keeps them busy. I’m sure that they didn’t have time to eat until that entire crowd had been served.

Jesus uses people who lack resources. The disciples’ comment about buying enough food for all these people was no doubt said with some sarcasm. They didn’t have nearly enough money to do that. The other gospels report that they did a quick calculation and told Jesus that 200 denarii (seven to eight months’ wages) would not be enough to give each person just a little bread. Obviously, the disciples didn’t have anywhere near that much cash in hand. Besides, they were in a desolate place. Even if they went to Bethsaida to buy bread, there wouldn’t be that much bread available. They were ridiculously lacking in the resources to meet Jesus’ demand to feed the multitude.

Jesus works through people who choose to serve. He works through His servants. Servants serve when they’re tired, emotionally drained, busy, and lacking in adequate resources. Servants serve because they’re under obligation to their master.

How do we do it? By yielding our inadequacy to the Master to use as He pleases. Five small loaves and two fish, a boy’s lunch—not much to feed such a crowd.

3. Christ will give us His adequacy when we yield our inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

A. We must yield what we have, not what we don’t have.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But so often we make up excuses about what we don’t have and we fail to offer to Jesus what we do have. “If I just had more money, I’d give regularly to the church!” “If I just had the gift of evangelism, I’d witness more!” “If I just had the ability that others have, I’d serve the Lord.” “If I just …”! But Jesus didn’t use all the bread in Bethsaida, which the disciples didn’t have. He used the five loaves and two fish that they did have. Jesus doesn’t ask you to give Him what you don’t have. He asks you to give Him what you do have.

B. We must yield our inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

The disciples weren’t giving the orders here. They were following Jesus’ orders: “Have them recline to eat in groups of about fifty each.” “Eat what, Lord?” “It won’t work, Lord!” “I’ve got a better idea, Lord.” No, they did what Jesus commanded. We need to yield ourselves to Him and let Him do as He sees fit. What Jesus did with this boy’s lunch is what He does with us when we give Him our inadequate abilities and resources:

  • Jesus blesses.

Without His blessing, we’re wasting our time. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). Do you covet God’s blessing in your life and labors for Him? Everything in God’s work depends upon His blessing. If it is there, even an insufficient amount is sufficient; if it is lacking, the greatest resources and efforts in the world will not be enough.

  • Jesus breaks.

Blessing and brokenness go together. You won’t find God’s blessing apart from God’s breaking. You can see it in the lives of every person God has used. Abraham and Sarah had to be past their ability to produce a child before God gave them Isaac. Jacob had to be crippled in his hip before he prevailed with God. Moses had to fail in his own strength and spend 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness before God used him to deliver Israel.

Vance Havner observed, “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

  • Jesus satisfies.

Jesus “kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they all ate and were satisfied” (9:16b-17a).

We hear a lot about “burnout” in our day. While we need adequate rest and time off, we can test our labors for the Lord by this: If we’re burned out, there’s a good chance we’ve been trying to meet human needs with our inadequate abilities and resources. But if we come away tired, yes, but with the satisfaction of the fulness of Christ left over in our souls, then the Lord’s blessing was on us.


God may not call us to preach to thousands. But if you’ve tasted His mercy, He does call you to serve Him in some way. He wants to use you to give the Bread of Life to those who are hungry.

The requirement is that you see how inadequate you are to do anything for Him. Then, yield your inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases. He will use you to help meet the needs of a hurting world. And He will give you a basket full of leftovers for yourself besides!

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Posted by on November 8, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: From Fear to Faith – Luke 8:41-56

8:41-42 And now a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come home with him. His only child was dying, a little girl twelve years old. As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds.NLT

A synagogue leader was highly visible and respected. The synagogue was the local center of worship…responsible for supervising worship services, caring for the scrolls, running the daily school, keeping the congregation faithful to the law, distributing alms, administering the care of the building, and finding rabbis to teach on the Sabbath.

Jairus was desperate because his only child was dying…as a loving father overshadowed his position as a leader. He put aside any concern for himself.

8:43-44 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.NIV

Luke wrote that the woman had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. Many doctors had tried, but with no success (Mark 5:26). This was a type of painful hemorrhage. The bleeding caused the woman to be in a constant condition of ceremonial uncleanness (see Leviticus 15:25-33). She could not worship in the synagogue, and she could not have normal social relationships, for under Jewish law, anyone who touched her also would become unclean.

That she was in the crowd at all was a courageous move on her part. If all those people bumping against her in the crowd had known her condition, she would have been in for some rough treatment.

She also desperately needed Jesus….she believed even the clothes of a holy man imparted spiritual and healing power.

She may also have feared that Jesus would not touch her if he knew her condition because she would make him unclean. So she hoped to touch Jesus and then get away as unobtrusively as possible.

The moment that she touched Jesus, her bleeding stopped. The text in Luke says that she was healed immediately—her pain was gone and she knew that she was healed. After twelve years of suffering, the bleeding vanished completely in an instant.

8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.NLT The woman had touched Jesus and probably had turned to go, hoping to disappear into the crowd. But Jesus knew about the healing the moment it happened. Peter pointed out the obvious, basically telling Jesus it was a strange question to ask in the middle of a crowd.

Why did it matter? Couldn’t Jesus have let this woman go on her way? It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t know who had touched him. He wanted her to step forward and identify herself.  Jesus wanted to teach her that his cloak did not contain magical properties but that her faith in him had healed her. He may also have wanted to teach the crowds a lesson.

In Jesus’ mind, this suffering woman was not to be overlooked. As God’s creation, she deserved attention and respect.

8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”NIV Jesus persisted. He stopped the entire crowd…Jesus was talking about a purposeful touch of someone who wanted to be healed. Jesus knew it because power had gone out from him. Jesus also knew that for this woman to be able to return to normal social relations and worship, her cure would need to be known publicly.

8:47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.NRSV

She would have to explain how she—unclean and filled with a dreadful disease—had come in among the crowd, had reached out and touched a man (a rabbi) in her unclean state, and had hoped to slip away.

8:48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”NIV She came for healing and received it, but she also received a relationship and peace with God himself because of her faith. Jesus explained that it was not his clothing that had healed her; rather, her faith in reaching out to the one Person who could heal her had allowed that healing to take place.

The words “go in peace” are more literally “go into peace.” With this healing, Jesus gave this woman her life. Her cure was permanent. Jesus wished her peace of both body and soul—renewed health for her body and eternal salvation for her soul.

8:49 While he was still speaking to her, a messenger arrived from Jairus’s home with the message, “Your little girl is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.NLT What Jairus feared most had happened. His dear little girl had died. It was too late for the Teacher to heal her, so there was no longer any reason to bring Jesus to his home.

8:50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”NIV Jairus had tried, but he had failed. Jesus, however, would not be put off. In the presence of Jairus, the woman had been commended for her faith. Here in the presence of the woman, Jairus was told to have faith. The woman became a model of faith for Jairus.

In many ways, the woman and Jairus are similar. Both came to Jesus in desperate need, kneeling at his feet (8:41, 47); both had public problems (8:47, 51); both needed faith, which was the crucial step in their solution (8:48, 50).

Faith had healed the desperate woman; faith could also heal Jairus’s child.

 8:51 When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, James, John, and the little girl’s father and mother.NLT  Raising a dead child would be obvious enough, so in this miracle, Jesus wanted privacy for the child and her parents. He did not need the miracle-hungry throng filling the room.

8:52-53 The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she is only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died.NLT The house full of people probably included relatives and neighbors, as well as professional mourners who may have already arrived. Lack of weeping and wailing was the ultimate disgrace and disrespect. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, was an important person in the town. Thus, at the death of his only daughter, the townspeople demonstrated their great love and respect for Jairus and his family by their intense grief.

Jesus used the image of sleep to indicate that the girl’s condition was temporary and that she would be restored. For Jesus, death is nothing more than sleep, for he has power and authority over death.

8:54-55 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.NIV Jesus went against all ceremonial law and took the dead girl by the hand. Touching a dead body would make a person unclean, but Jesus often would go past such laws in order to show compassion on those in need.

8:56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.NKJV Reversal of death is never expected—and only a few have ever received a dead loved one back to life.

Jesus told the parents not to talk about their daughter’s healing because he knew that the facts would speak for themselves. Jesus was not attempting to keep this a secret, for the crowd outside was waiting and would see what had happened. Jesus charged them to tell no one because he was concerned for his ministry.

He wanted people to listen to his words that would heal their broken spiritual lives. Jesus’ mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. If crowds descended on him to see dead people raised, they would not be coming with the attitude needed to hear and respond to the gospel.

In fearful situations we must overcome hindrances to faith and put our trust in Jesus.

Sooner or later, we all face these fearful situations where we don’t know what to do. The bottom suddenly drops out from under us and we are overwhelmed. Such situations are never fun, but Jairus’ story shows us that …

There are benefits for us in fearful situations.
A. Fearful situations help us clarify our priorities.
It’s easy to drift off course in life and to spend our time in things that aren’t in line with our priorities, if we were to stop and think about it. But we don’t stop and think about it until a crisis like this brings us up short.

Worldly success doesn’t insulate anyone from tragedy and death. It may afford a person access to the best medical treatment available. But doctors can only do so much. Every person must be ready to face death for himself and his loved ones. When it stares us in the face, we’re reminded that love for God and for others is the only thing worth living for.

B. Fearful situations strip away our pride and let the Lord prove Himself mighty on our behalf.
If we protect our pride and come to Jesus and say, “Lord, I’ve almost got the situation under control, but I could use a little advice from You,” He is robbed of His glory. But when we come and cast ourselves at Jesus’ feet and say, “Lord, You must do it or there is no hope,” He is glorified and others are drawn to put their trust in Him.

C. Fearful situations remind us of our mortality and drive us to trust in Christ.
Necessity is not only the mother of invention; it’s also the mother of faith. We don’t trust God as we should until we are forced to trust Him. But our fear can be God’s opportunity if we trust in Him.

Someone has said that we hang the heaviest weights by the thinnest wires. We put our hopes on this life, which is so tentative. We live and plan our lives as if death is a far-distant thing, something we need not think about until we’re in our 70s and 80s.

But that which matters most to us can be taken quickly and without warning. When we stare death in the face, be it our own or the death of a loved one, we are suddenly reminded that life is a vapor and that we must be right with God.

Some of you face fearful situations today—a difficult marriage, a rebellious child, a personal health problem, the loss of a job or a financial setback. Whatever your fearful situation, it can be of great benefit if you let it clarify your priorities, strip away your pride, and drive you to trust in Jesus so that He can be glorified through it. But trusting Him isn’t easy:

2. In fearful situations we must overcome hindrances to faith.
When we face fearful situations, believing in Jesus is not easy. We will face hindrances and setbacks which can shake our confidence in Him. The world will often laugh at us and say, “What a fool to trust in Jesus! We have the facts on our side.” But we must overcome these hindrances and cling to our Savior. Just as He called Jairus to faith in the face of fear, so He calls us.

In fearful situations we must put our trust in Jesus.

A. Jesus’ willingness to accept us where we are encourages us to trust Him.
Jairus believed in Jesus, but it wasn’t an especially strong faith. Jairus didn’t go and plead, “Speak the word and my daughter will get well.” He asked Jesus to come and lay His hands on her. It was a weak faith in comparison to the others, but Jesus accepted it and worked with Jairus from that point.

B. Jesus’ power in working with others encourages us to trust Him.
Jesus started to go with Jairus, but then got interrupted by this woman with the hemorrhage. This was a hindrance to Jairus’ faith, in that while Jesus was dealing with her, word came that Jairus’ daughter had died. But it also served to strengthen his faith, as he saw Jesus’ power heal this needy woman.  She had been 12 years in her affliction, the same number of years that Jairus’ daughter had lived.

C. Jesus’ tenderness encourages us to trust Him. Like a father helping his youngster learn to ride a bike, Jesus comes alongside and cheers, “Attaway! Keep going! You’re doing great!” If we fall and skin our knee, He tenderly cleans and bandages it and helps us get up and start over again.

D. Jesus’ mighty power over death encourages us to trust Him. For Jesus, raising the dead was as easy as raising a sleeping child would be for us.  Because Jesus is powerful over death, we can trust Him! No matter how fearful the situation, Jesus wants us to trust Him. He may or may not deliver our loved ones or us from death. But even if He does not, we can trust His mighty power and know that one day He will speak the word and all we who have trusted in Him will be gathered with Him, triumphant over sin and death.

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Posted by on November 1, 2020 in Luke

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