The Day of Judgment (Luke 10:12-16)

Our text this morning is Luke 10:12-16.  In it Jesus will teach us two things: First, rejection of the gospel results in punishment.  Second, the severity of the punishment will be consistent with the knowledge we have received.  Jesus says:

I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.  “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.

When Jesus says “that day”, He is speaking of the judgment to come.  2 Thessalonians 1:8 tells us Jesus will inflict “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  On that Day of Judgment, Jesus will also be “glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess 1:10).

Rejection Equals Punishment

Jesus’ audience knew Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon were going to be punished in the judgment.  These were pagan cities with open wickedness.  Their rebellion was obvious in their worship of idols.  Sodom, for example, is infamous as a wicked city.  It is because of their particular evil that we get the word sodomy.  Jesus’ audience knew that the people of these cities deserved punishment for their wickedness.

What is surprising is that Jesus says that the judgment against these pagan cities (with evident wickedness) will be more bearable than for other cities.  Jesus’ audience was surprised at His statement because Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were religious cities whose inhabitants professed to believe in God.  Archeologists found a synagogue in Chorazin with a “seat of Moses” (see Matt 23:2).  Jesus’ audience expected that the people of these cities be commended for being religious, but instead Jesus rebuked them.

The problem with these “religious” cities is that, in spite of all their religious convictions and outward conformity, they rejected Jesus.  Jesus says, “if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes” (13).  This brings us to our second point.

Severity of Punishment based on Knowledge

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum had the advantage of seeing and hearing the Son of God made flesh.  Jesus healed their sick, cast out their demons, and raised the dead back to life and they rejected Him.  Jesus says it will be more bearable for Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because those pagan cities’ rejection was based on less knowledge of God.  They will still be punished, but their punishment will be less severe.

Sodom was severely punished in this world.  Genesis 19:24 says, “The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”  Verse 28 says, “the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.”  Jude 1:7 says, “Sodom and Gomorrah…serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”  Yet surprisingly Jesus says it will “be more bearable on that day for Sodom” (12).

How this should terrify the inhabitants of United States of America who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Sodom had no churches, no preachers, no Sunday School, no AM or PM worship services, no Small Groups, no Lifeway Christian bookstores, no Christian TV, no Christian radio, no prayer meetings, they did not even have a Bible.  They were a wicked and perverse people and because they lacked these instruments of grace they will have a more bearable judgment than any city in America.

The United States of America, Scott City included, is only alive today because of the mercy of God.  We have more churches in Scott City than in most cities of the world and it will be more bearable on that day for them than for Scott City, MO.

Do we believe God owes us grace and mercy?  The United States is the world’s leading producer of pornography.  1.2 million children in the United States were aborted in 2011.  Homosexuality is not only being tolerated by our society but is being championed.  God is being removed from our schools and forced out of our public area.  Sodom had no Bible and suffered the wrath of God.  The US has millions of Bibles and it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day than for us.

Brothers, what shall we do?

Abraham interceded for Sodom and was told that if there was 10 righteous people it would not be destroyed (Gen 18:32).  Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill once wrote: “The salt of the earth that is saving America at this hour is the Church.  Believers, this is your hour.  Believers, arise!  Believers, begin now to watch, to weep, to work, to war.”

The idolatry of Athens provoked Paul’s spirit within him (Acts 17:16).  Jesus drew near to the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19:41 and “He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!’

What should we do?  First, if you do not know God or obey the gospel then you should do it now.  Second, if you are a believer you should seek to tell as many people as possible about the gospel and the good news of the reconciliation between God and man.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Will everyone be punished for sin?
  2. What is the severity of the punishment based on?
  3. What is our responsibility to the gospel?
  4. How can you be more active in the church in order to help others know God and obey the gospel of Jesus?

Rejoice in the Harvest (Luke 10:4-11; 17-20)

The Context

In verses 1-3, we read that Jesus sent followers “into every town and place where He Himself was about to go” (1).  He prepared them for the importance of the mission by saying, “The harvest is plentiful” (2).  He prepared them for the difficulty of the mission by saying “the laborers are few” (2).  He prepared them for the danger of the mission by saying, “Go your way; behold I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (3).

This morning we will be encouraged to enter into this important, difficult, and dangerous mission because our “names are written in heaven” (20).

Rejoice! What does it mean to have your name written in heaven? Paul says it this way in Philippians 4:3, “help…the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”  There is a book of life in heaven that contains the names of those who follow Christ.  The book of life does not contain the names of those who do not follow Christ.  Revelation 13:8 says, “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb who was slain.” John in Revelation 20:12 saw the “dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.”  John continues in verse 15, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

If you have had your sins forgiven by Christ and by the grace of God placed your faith in Him; your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  God knows who you are and you are adopted into God’s family. Let the Word of God encourage every follower of Christ to enter into the plentiful harvest and be willing to be among the few that labor as lambs in the midst of wolves because your name is written in heaven.  In fact, let the fact that your name is written in heaven compel you to joyfully enter into the harvest!

Instructions for the Mission. In verses 4-11 we read about specific instructions Jesus gave to His followers.  The specifics of the instructions are not for us to emulate today, but the spirit of the instructions are just as relevant now as they were then.  Jesus told His followers, “Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road” (4).  Not carrying a moneybag or knapsack or sandals spoke to the urgency of the mission.  This also helps us understand the meaning behind not greeting anyone on the road, for these greetings were usually long and drawn out.  Also, the shaking of the dust demonstrates a clear conscience in the discharge of their duty.  Pilate used the act of washing his hands as a means to show his “innocence” in Matthew 27:24.

These specific instructions do not need to be emulated exactly, but we must remember that we today have a sense of urgency in our mission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19).  We also must proclaim the gospel faithfully and truthfully so that we can have a clear conscience.  Paul says in Acts 20:26-27, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

Jesus Conquers. As we have already seen in verse 20, the best reason to rejoice in the harvest is because our “names are written in heaven.”  Another reason to rejoice is because the enemy is defeated.  Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (18).  The disciples returned and said, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (17).  Jesus tells them that He has given them authority “over all the power of the enemy” (19).  Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave.  We should be compelled to go into the harvest because our mission will succeed because our enemy is defeated.

Let us also remember Jesus’ words in verse 20, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In Conclusion

Let’s close by putting everything into perspective by making a checklist:

  • Plentiful harvest that requires much labor
  •  Few laborers for the harvest
  •  Few laborers in the plentiful harvest that is dangerous
  •  Defeated enemy!
  •  Name written in Heaven!

Every follower of Christ should not only know they should follow but should desire to follow.  If we can remember that our enemy may be strong but he is defeated we can have boldness to go into the harvest.  But more importantly than that, if we can remember that our names are written in heaven we can have boldness to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why is there a sense of urgency in evangelism and missions?
  2. Why is it important to proclaim the gospel faithfully and truthfully?
  3. If Jesus has conquered the enemy, why should His followers fear the enemy?
  4. What is the best reason for a Christian to rejoice?
  5. What does it mean to have your name written in heaven?

Lambs Among Wolves (Luke 10:3)

This Sunday morning we will continue our study of the Gospel of Luke in Chapter 10 verses 1-3.  It reads:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Last week we discussed that the harvest is plentiful.  We discussed that the laborers sent out into the harvest are few.  We discussed that we should be willing to go and pray earnestly for God to send out others as well.  This morning we will focus on verse 3 as we resolve to live and die for Christ.

Lambs and Wolves

Jesus told His followers, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  That does not sound very comforting, does it?  What normally happens when lambs find themselves in the midst of wolves?  They become lunch.  Why would Jesus tell His disciples this troubling statement before sending them out?  He is warning them of the difficulty of the task.  One reason why the laborers are few (v.2) is because the labor is difficult.

Lambs are protected from wolves and other predators because they are helpless to defend themselves.  It is this vulnerability that is the key to seeing the connection Jesus is making between His followers and lambs.  Jesus’ followers proclaim the gospel through witness not warfare and through Bibles not bullets.  Christians are vulnerable to attack and suffering as they carry out the mission.

Jesus tells His followers that He is “sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Do you sense the danger involved?  A follower might say that he does not want to go into a particular area of the world because it is dangerous.  But, Jesus says I am sending my followers into that area because it is dangerous.  When Jesus gave His Great Commission, He was not just speaking about the safe areas but the dangerous areas as well:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

For most of us, pastor included, the thought of going into a dangerous area is frightening because of the thought of dying.  Dying for Christ is not something most of us wake up eager to do.   Let me encourage you in this way: before you commit to dying for Christ, commit to living for Christ.

Live for Christ

Are you willing to live for Christ?  What does that mean?  Living for Christ might be one of the hardest things a Christian can do because it means swimming against the cultural current.  It means putting up guardrails in your life to help you live a life that is pleasing to God.  It means loving God more than your money, your family, and your job.  It means that you “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).  It means “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17).

Living for Christ means that He is your greatest desire and your thoughts are always focused on bringing glory and honor to Him.  Living for Christ means that you strive daily to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).  Living for Christ means that you understand that every breath you take and every meal you eat is a gift from God that is given to provide the strength to labor in the gospel harvest.  This is important because only a person who is committed to living for Christ is willing to die for Christ.

Die for Christ

Before we discuss this next point, remember that if you are not willing to live for Christ; you are not willing to die for Christ.  Stephen died for Christ and he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).  Why would a person die for Christ?  Would Jesus ask His followers to die for Him?  Jesus does not require all of His followers to die for His name, but He does require all of His followers to be willing to die for His name.  If the decision is between affirming your life and death or denying your faith and living, you resolve to die before denying your Lord.  Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 9:26, “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.”

Jesus prepares us for the difficulty of the task in John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”  Paul wrote to a young minister named Timothy and said, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).  Are you so committed to Christ that you are willing to die for Him if needed?

In Conclusion

Let us conclude by reading the words of Paul in Acts 20:22-24:

I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Paul in Acts 20:22-24

Questions for Reflection

  1. Why does Jesus say His followers are being sent out as lambs among wolves?
  2. Does your life prove you live for Christ?
  3. Does your life prove you are willing to die for Christ?

The Harvest (Luke 10:1-2)

This Sunday morning we will continue our study of the Gospel of Luke in Chapter 10 verses 1-2.  It reads:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

This morning, we will learn three things about our text: First, the Harvest; Second, the Laborers; and Third, the Responsibility.

The Harvest. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful.”  What is this harvest?  Jesus is not a farmer; therefore, He cannot be talking about a physical harvesting of fruit or grain.  What Jesus is talking about is a spiritual harvesting of people.  It is an illustration of the good news of Jesus Christ.  It is the offering of forgiveness of sins to the world and the reconciling of men with God.  This harvest refers to the Great Commission Jesus gave in Matthew 28-18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What does Jesus say about this spiritual harvest?  He says it is plentiful.  It is plentiful in that there is much work to be done in the harvest.

On October 31, 2011, it is estimated that the world population reached 7 billion and in 13 years the population will reach 8 billion.  Of the 7 billion people alive today, almost 3 billion (42%) live in what we call an “unreached people group”.  An unreached people group is a group of people in which less than 2% claim any form of what we would call Christianity.  Consider the 122 million Japanese people; there might be 1,500 who would claim any Christian affiliation.  Imagine if that were Scott City.  Scott City contains almost 4,600 people.  If Scott City were Japan, there would be 55 people in the entire town that would claim any Christian affiliation.  Truly, the harvest is plentiful.

The Laborers. We have a plentiful harvest that needs to be harvested.  What about the laborers to work in this harvest?  Jesus says, “The laborers are few.”  Why are there few?  The laborers are few because there are a lot of people who do not follow Jesus.  The Bible tells us that all people are “by nature, children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).  Everyone is born “dead in their trespasses and sins…following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:1-2).  The laborers are few because people love “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16) more than they love God.

Tragically, the laborers are few because even among those who follow Jesus there are some who are not laborers in the harvest.  This doesn’t mean that everyone has to go to Africa, but everyone has a role to fulfill.  Consider what the Paul says to his fellow Christians: “We are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:9).  God has prepared work for every Christian in the harvest.  There is labor to be done and we must all do our part.

The Responsibility. With such a great task of harvesting and so few laborers, what shall we do?  Jesus says, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  What good is that?  It is the most important thing because you are speaking with the Lord of the harvest who is in charge of sending out laborers into His harvest.  God knows the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few and He has been, currently is, and will continue to raise up men and women to labor in His harvest.  He is doing so right now.

This is why we have boldness to share our faith and labor in the harvest.  We know Jesus’ words in John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The gospel is to go out into the entire world because His word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).  In Revelation 7:9-10 we see this promise fulfilled:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

This does not mean that everyone will be saved, but it does mean that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).  What is remarkable about this responsibility to pray earnestly is that it is understood that you are asking for the Lord to send out other laborers.  The seventy-two who were told to pray were first told to go.

In Conclusion

There is much work to be done in the harvest here in Scott City, in Missouri, in the USA, and in the world.  Let us all labor in the harvest and pray earnestly for the Lord to send more workers for this important task.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What does Jesus say about the harvest? Why is this true?
  2. What does Jesus say about the laborers?  Why is this true?
  3. What is the proper response to the harvest?

Yes, but let me first (Luke 9:57-62)

One of the great themes of the Gospel of Luke is the emphasis on following Jesus.  Following involves submission to Jesus and His teaching and being completely committed to Him as Lord.  Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

This morning, we will study Luke 9:57-62 and learn from Jesus that His followers must: First, recognize that following Jesus is greater than your comfort.  Second, recognize that following Jesus is greater than every other responsibility.  Third, recognize that following Jesus is greater than every other desire.

Following Jesus and Comfort

In verse 57, a man makes a profession of faith in which he promises to follow Jesus wherever He goes.  Unlike the other men in our text today, this man does not offer an objection to immediate submission.  He boldly proclaims that he will follow Jesus everywhere.  Jesus offers a perplexing reply.  He says, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (58).  What does that mean?  He is not saying that He has never had a home, but rather that He has “set His face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51) where He will “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (9:22).  Jesus is bidding this man to “take up his cross…and follow me” (9:23).

The point Jesus is making is to show that following Jesus is not easy.  You may lose your comfort.  Following Jesus may be very difficult and it may cost you all that you currently hold dear, but the promise is that you will be reconciled to God.

Following Jesus and Responsibility

In verse 59, Jesus told a man to follow Him.  The man replies, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  A son burying a father in this time period was a great responsibility.  A Jewish burial during this time involved two phases: first, the body was prepared and placed into a grave and then, one year later, the bones were removed and placed in an ossuary (box containing skeletal remains).  We cannot tell from the text if the man’s father is alive, recently died, or died a year earlier.  It seems to be a reasonable request.  The man has an important obligation that needs to be met.  But look at Jesus’ response.  He tells the man, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.  But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (60).

This may sound harsh to us, but it shouldn’t.  Jesus hears the man’s responsibility and understands that the man does not believe that following Jesus is the most important responsibility.  The man wants to follow Jesus but first must attend to a more important matter.  Jesus is telling the man that a true follower’s greatest responsibility is to follow Him.  Jesus says that those who are spiritually dead should have precedence over those who are physically dead.

Following Jesus and Desire

In verse 61 another man tells Jesus, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say farewell to those at my home.”  The second man wanted to follow but first had a responsibility to meet.  The third man wanted to follow but first had a desire to meet.  Like the request of the second man, the request of the third man seems reasonable to us.  The man wanted to go home and say goodbye.  Jesus tells the man, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (62).

Was Jesus having a bad day?  This may sound callous to us but it shouldn’t.  Jesus is telling the man that a true follower’s greatest desire is to follow Him.  We do not know if the man wanted to consult with his family or if he would even return.  Jesus says that no one who sets about the work of the kingdom and looks back is fit for the kingdom.  A follower, like a man plowing a field, must not long to go back.

In Conclusion

While these sayings of Jesus may sound harsh, callous, and unkind; they are gracious.  Following Jesus must be more important than every other comfort you have.  The most important comfort a Christian should have is in following Jesus.  It is important to rest and to relax, but if you place your own comfort before following Jesus then your priorities are wrong.

Following Jesus must be more important than every other responsibility you have.  The most important responsibility a Christian should have is to follow Jesus and nothing should supersede that.  It is an important responsibility to provide for your family, but if you place that responsibility before following Jesus then your priorities are wrong.  It is an important responsibility to pay your bills, but if you place that responsibility before tithing then your priorities are wrong.

Following Jesus must be more important than every other desire you have.  The most important desire a Christian should have is to follow Jesus and nothing should supplant that.  It is an important desire to see that your children enjoy sports and build character through teamwork, but if sports practice keeps them from hearing about Jesus in a local church then your priorities are wrong.

Let us wholeheartedly and completely follow Jesus.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What should be a Christian’s greatest comfort? 
  2. Why is it wrong for other comforts to take precedence over this one?
  3. What should be a Christian’s greatest responsibility? 
  4. Why is it wrong for other responsibilities to take precedence over this one?
  5. What should be a Christian’s greatest desire? 
  6. Why is it wrong for other desires to take precedence over this one?

Pride (Luke 9:37-56)

This week we will continue our study of the Gospel of Luke by examining verses 37 through 56 of chapter 9.  In these verses we will learn from the failures of the disciples of Jesus about the dangers associated with pride.  Pride is the cause of all five failures because verses 46-48 show us a glimpse of their prideful hearts that wanted to exalt themselves over all else.   First, in verses 37-43, we learn that pride weakens your power and authority.  Second, in verses 44-45, we learn that pride limits your understanding.  Third, in verses 46-48, we learn that pride causes fights.  Fourth, in verses 49-50, we learn that pride produces division.  Fifth, in verses 51-56, we learn that pride restrains compassion.

Pride Weakens Power and Authority

In verses 37-43, Jesus comes down from the mountain with three of His disciples to find a great crowd gathered and a man complaining about Jesus’ disciples’ inability to heal his demon-possessed son.  This weakness is shocking given that in Luke 9:1-2 Jesus “gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.”  The disciples have the power and authority; so why were they not able to cast out the demon?  The answer is pride.  Jesus calls His disciples a “faithless and twisted generation” because they were slow to trust.  A prideful man says, “I can do it myself.”  Jesus calls us to humbly trust in Him.

Pride Limits Understanding

In verses 44-45, Jesus tells His disciples “Let these words sink into your ears…but they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it.  And they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”  It is remarkable that Jesus tells them to understand but they did not understand because of pride.  They were also so prideful that they “were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”  A prideful man says, “The appearance of understanding is better than actually understanding.”  Jesus calls us to humbly learn from Him and to remember that we constantly need to be growing in understanding.

Pride Causes Fights

In verses 46-48, Jesus’ disciples begin to argue amongst themselves “as to which of them was the greatest.”  This was not a humble fight where they were saying, “You are! No, you are!”  This was more of a: “No you are not, I am!”  Jesus brought a child to them and told them “He who is least among you all is the one who is great.”  A prideful man puts himself and his needs before all others, but Jesus calls us to put others and their needs first.

Pride Produces Division

In verses 49-50, Jesus’ disciples try to stop someone who is working in Jesus’ name because “he does not follow with us.”  The disciples felt that they were the only ones who could do anything for Jesus.  Jesus corrects them by saying, “The one who is not against you is for you.”  A prideful man says, “If you do not believe exactly how I believe then we cannot cooperate together.”  Jesus calls us to cooperate with all His followers.

Pride Restrains Compassion

In verses 51-56, Jesus tried to enter a village of the Samaritans “but the people did not receive Him”.  When James and John saw this they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  Jesus’ response is quick and forceful, “He turned and rebuked them.”  A prideful man’s pride is quickly wounded and a wounded pride wants vengeance.  Jesus reminded them and reminds us that this was “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19) not a time for judgment.  Jesus calls us to show compassion to all.

In Conclusion

Let us learn from the disciples and seek to put to death the pride in our own lives.  A healthy Christian and a healthy church is built upon the foundation of Christ and is held together by humbly serving God and others.  We are told in 1 Peter 5:5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Questions for Reflection

  1. How does pride weaken spiritual power and authority?
  2. How does pride limit ones understanding of spiritual matters?
  3. How does pride cause fights and quarrels?
  4. How does pride produce division?
  5. How does pride restrain compassion?

Awesome God! Amazing Power! (Psalm 147:5)

This week, through Vacation Bible School, our church has the opportunity and privilege to teach children in our area about our awesome God who has amazing power.  This year’s VBS Scripture is Psalm 147:5: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”

As kids explore Psalm 147:5; they will recognize God’s power over all things, trust that God is always in control, accept God’s gift of forgiveness, celebrate that Jesus is alive, and rely on God’s power.  This morning we will take a closer examination of these Biblical truths.

God’s Power over all Things

We serve an awesome God with amazing power over all things.  There is nothing in this world that is outside the power of God.  The Bible reveals that God is sovereign (rules) over all things.  We know this because Genesis 1:1 tells us God created all things. Colossians 1 gets more specific by telling us that it was actually God the Son who created all things.  Not only that, but all things were created for Him and through Him all things hold together.  In Psalm 147:4 we read that God “determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names.”  Psalm 147 also tells us it is God who gives rain and makes grass grow.  God provides food, snow, wind, and water to all.  God has power over all things.  God even has power over Satan and his demonic followers.  Because of this we recognize: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”

Trust that God is Always in Control

We serve an awesome God with amazing power who is always in control.  Ask Joseph if God is in control.  He told his brothers (who had sold him into slavery) in Genesis 50:19-20 “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  Ask Job if God is in control.  He confesses in Job 42:2: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  The amazing thing is that even if we fail to recognize it, God has power over all things and is always in control.  Humans commit crimes and rebellion occurs, but we rest in the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  To this we recognize, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”

Accept God’s Gift of Forgiveness

We serve an awesome God with amazing power who offers forgiveness as a gift.  Why does He offer forgiveness as a gift?  He does so because we have rebelled against Him.  Rather than destroy us, He offers forgiveness.  He says, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18).  He says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way” (Isa. 55:6-7).  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, says, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” and in 6:2, says: “Behold, now is the day of salvation.”  Paul says in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Accept God’s gift of forgiveness and recognize: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”

Celebrate that Jesus is Alive

We serve an awesome God with amazing power who is alive.  Jesus Christ died, but He was raised from the dead.  He died for sin and was raised to conquer death itself.  We visit a tomb, but it is an empty tomb.  Peter said “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24).  Jesus is alive!  Death could not contain Him.  Because He lives, He is able to grant us life.  Celebrate that Jesus is alive for “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.”

Rely on God’s Power

We serve an awesome God with amazing power who calls you to rely on Him.  This awesome God with amazing power has power over all things.  He is always in control and offers forgiveness for your rebellion.  Rely on God’s power.  His understanding is beyond measure.  Trust in Him daily.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Questions for Reflection

  1. What things does God have power over in your life?
  2. How does knowing that God is in control help you in your daily life?
  3. What forgiveness does God offer?
  4. What proof does the Bible offer to the resurrection of Jesus?
  5. How can you rely on God’s power?

 

 

Blessed Nation (Psalm 33 )

In a chaotic world, Psalm 33 serves as a reminder that God is in control and that He is worthy of our praise.  This Psalm reminds us that the word of the LORD is upright, the counsel of the LORD stands forever, and the LORD sees all things.  The proper response, according to the Psalmist is for His people to hope in the LORD.

Shout for joy in the LORD (1-3)

The Psalmist tells us to shout for joy in the LORD.  In spite of what may be happening in your life, it is befitting for the upright to praise the LORD.  Give thanks to the LORD.  He is who He says He is and He does what He says He will do.  The LORD delights in our worship and loves to hear His followers praise Him, especially in song.  When we sing songs of praise, let us consider that God is listening and enjoying.

The word of the LORD is upright (4-9)

We are given a reason to shout for joy in verses 4-9: the word of the LORD is upright.  In Hebrew poetry (like this Psalm), referencing a person’s name is a way to speak of the person.  Jesus says in His Model Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name” (Matt 6:9).  The LORD’s word is upright.  His ways are not crooked, but are morally right. Everything the LORD does and tells us to do is good regardless of what our culture says. The LORD is faithful and He loves righteousness and justice. In fact, the earth is filled with His steadfast love.

The Psalmist next reminds us to consider the fact that the LORD created all things.  Everything that exists does so because of Him.  He is strong and mighty.  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made.  We should consider this and fear the LORD.  Let us stand in awe of Him because He not only brought everything into being but makes it stand firm.  Colossians 1:16 says the following about Christ: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

The counsel of the LORD stands forever (10-12)

Verses 10-12 provide another reason to shout for joy: He is the source of all wisdom.  Despite how wise the nations consider themselves to be, the LORD brings their counsel to nothing.  In other words, He frustrates the plans of the peoples.  This is good because the counsel of the nations lead to ruin and misery.  The LORD graciously frustrates their plans and brings them to nothing.

It is not the nation’s counsel that stands forever, but the LORD’s counsel.  He is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom.  This is important because a nation is only blessed if their God is the LORD. In other words, a nation is blessed when they are submitting to the counsel of the LORD and not following the counsel of the nations.  A blessed nation is one that is currently submitting to the LORD. Tragically, many nations have submitted to the LORD in the past but stopped to their ruin.

The LORD looks down from heaven (13-19)

Verses 13-19 provide another reason to shout for joy in the LORD: He is aware of all things.  Nothing that we do is hidden from the LORD.  He sees all things and observes all deeds.  The LORD created us and alone can sustain us.  We are encouraged to submit to Him and refuse to trust in our missiles, submarines and armies.  Woe to the nation that thinks it is safe when it refuses to heed the counsel of the LORD and instead trusts in its army.  The eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him.  For those who hope in His steadfast love, He will deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.

Conclusion: Hope in the LORD (20-22)

We are initially called to shout for joy in the LORD, now in conclusion we are called to wait for Him.  Waiting signals trust.  He is our help and our shield.  We will only find true joy in Him and our heart is glad through trusting in His holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Questions for Reflection

  1. According to verses 1-3, how should we approach the LORD?
  2. What do verses 4-9 say about the word of the Lord and what He does?
  3. What do verses 10-12 say about the counsel of the Lord?
  4. According to verses 13-19, w hat does the LORD see and know?
  5. According to verses 20-22, why should we hope in the LORD?

 

The Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:27-36)

The Context

Jesus, having just told His followers to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Him, makes a promise; “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (27).  This promise refers to the inauguration of the kingdom of God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  But before these events, Jesus gives three of His disciples a glimpse of His glory through transfiguration.  This morning we will examine what happened and what it means.

Jesus’ Transfiguration: What Happened?

What do we mean when we say that Jesus was transfigured?  Transfiguration is a changing of form.  In order to help make this transfiguration make sense, let’s start in the beginning.  Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-7 that Jesus “was in the form of God…but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Before Jesus was born, He existed at God the Son and had the form of God.  At the birth of Jesus, the Son “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  When Jesus was born He took on human form.  When Jesus walked around on this earth, He had both the form of God and the form of man.  It is important to note that it was His human form that was visible.  In our passage this morning, Jesus’ Divine form was visible.  He briefly changed (transfigured) from the human form to the Divine form.  Let’s take a closer look at this event.

Jesus’ Appearance. Luke writes, “As He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white” (29).  Matthew writes, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light” (Matt 17:2).  Mark writes, “His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:3).  Jesus’ appearance was radically changed.  His Divine form shone through the human form and His glory was physically manifested.

Jesus’ Visitors. Luke writes, “Behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah” (30).  Why did Moses and Elijah visit Jesus?  Why these two men?  These two men are significant because for the 1st Century Jew these two men represented the Law and the Prophets.  Matthew and Mark write that they were talking with Jesus.  Luke tells us what they were discussing: they “appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (31).

Peter’s Confusion. Peter, heavy with sleep, said “Master, it is good that we are here.  Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (33).  Luke tells us that Peter was “not knowing what he said” (33). Mark writes, “For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:6).  Peter, James and John were very confused.

The Father’s Command. God the Father spoke to the three confused disciples and said, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (35) When the voice “had spoken, Jesus was found alone.  And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen” (36).  The Father directs the disciples to Jesus and affirms His role.

Jesus’ Transfiguration: What does it Mean?

The transfiguration of Jesus is a testimony to us that Jesus is who He says He is.  Who testifies during this event?

  • First, Jesus Himself testifies when His appearance changes.  He unveils His glory for His disciples to behold and reveals a side of Him of which they were not aware.
  • Second, Moses and Elijah testify.  As the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, they show that the Law and the Prophets point to and affirm Christ.  Luke writes, “the Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16).
  • Third, the Father testifies when He says, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (35). The Father makes it clear that Jesus is the Chosen One, the Beloved, the Redeemer.  It is through Jesus that salvation and reconciliation is offered.

After the transfiguration we hear the testimony of John and Peter, two of the three eyewitnesses.  John says, “we have seen His glory” (John 1:14).  Peter writes, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…when He received honor and glory from God the Father” (2 Peter 1:17).

In Conclusion

The transfiguration of Jesus is a fascinating and remarkable event in the life of Jesus.  It is a moment in which the curtain is pulled back and for a brief moment we get a glimpse into the glory of Jesus.  The transfiguration of Jesus serves as a testimony to the Church that Jesus is the Divine Son of God who has come to us to bring redemption.

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

(Psalm 95:2)

Questions for Reflection

  1. Transfigured means to “change form”.  What form did Jesus change from and what form did Jesus change into?
  2. What is significant about Jesus’ transfiguration?
  3. Who testifies on behalf of Jesus?
  4. What command is given during the transfiguration?
  5. What do we learn about Jesus through His transfiguration?

Following Jesus (Luke 9:21-26)

The Context

Peter has just confessed that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (20).  Jesus “commanded them to tell this to no none” (21).  This may sound odd, but it was because the crowds wanted the Christ to be a political freedom fighter.  Jesus knew that the Christ “must suffer many things…be killed, and on the third day be raised” (22).  Jesus said this to His disciples to prepare them for the suffering He would soon endure in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation.  In our passage this morning, Jesus explains to us what it means to follow Him.

A Christ Follower

If you consider yourself a Christian then you are identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ.  How does one follow Christ?  Many people have many answers but this morning we will discuss how Jesus answers this question.  Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (23).

Jesus says that a follower of Christ must do the following: 1) recognize the need to come after, 2) deny himself, 3) take up his cross daily and 4) actively follow.  These can be best summarized by the word submission.

Submission: Recognize the need

It all starts with recognition of the need to come after.  A person recognizes who Jesus is (The Christ of God), who they are (sinner in rebellion), and they see their need for Him.  This is all part of the Father drawing that person to Jesus (John 6:44).

Submission: Denying yourself

Jesus says that a denial of self is needed.  This denial of self is a refusal to engage in the self-centeredness that is so prevalent in this age.  It is a refusal to submit to selfishness, self-interest and self-fulfillment.  Denying yourself is best understood as a refusal to allow yourself to be the center of everything.

Submission: Take up your cross daily

Jesus says that one must take up his cross daily.  For us the cross is a well-known symbol of Christianity and hope.  But remember that for a 1st century Jew, the cross was an instrument of death.  Taking up your cross daily means that you are daily crucifying the sinful passion and lusts that war against your soul.  It is putting your selfishness and ego on the cross and daily killing it as you submit your life to Christ.  It is the intentional rejection of self-interest and self-fulfillment.

Submission: Actively follow

Jesus is saying that a follower of Christ is actively following.  They are known by those around them as ones who submit to Christ and have a deep love for Christ.  They are recognized by those around them as ones who do everything in the context of 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Can I follow and not submit?

In verses 24-26, Jesus answers common objections people raise against submitting to Him.

Objection #1: I want to save my life

Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  Jesus knows that His followers are not eager to die, but assures them that submission to Him will result in salvation.  If one seeks to save his life by refusing to submit to Jesus, he will find that He will lose it.

Objection #2: Can’t I love the world and you?

Jesus says, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (25).  The world promises happiness and fulfillment.  The world beckons us to submit to its rules and you can have the perfect life.  We know that the world does not provide true happiness but what if it did?  What if you did find true happiness and fulfillment in the world but discovered that the cost was your very soul?  Jesus tells His followers not to follow the world.  John writes of the foolishness of loving the world:

Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Objection #3: What if I am Ashamed?

Jesus says, “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” (26).  There is a price to pay for refusing to submit to Jesus.  He promises that if we are ashamed of Him and refuse to submit to Him, He will be ashamed of us.

In Conclusion

Jesus says that true followers are ones who submit themselves to Him.  A true follower loves Christ more than the world and demonstrates this in their thoughts, words and actions.  Are you a follower of Jesus?  If not, come to Him in repentance and faith.  If you are, continue following Him as you love God and love others.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What does Jesus say about someone who follows Him?
  2. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Let him deny himself”?
  3. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Take up his cross daily”?
  4. What does Jesus say about someone who attempts to gain the whole world?
  5. What does Jesus say about someone who loses his life “for My sake”?