Jesus at Nazareth (Part Four)

Luke 4:16-30

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:18-21 NIV).

God’s good news is built on and formed from Jesus Christ. It proclaims his person, his word, and his work. These three taken together form God’s final authority for all people everywhere. They proclaim the glory of God, the way to life, and God’s way for us to live. We see all three elements in this passage from Isaiah the prophet that the Messiah read that day in Nazareth.

As he read what we call Isaiah 61:1-2a, no one in the synagogue could have expected the direct application of the text that Jesus was about to make to himself.

“The starting point, the fundamental thing, is that Christianity is about Jesus… Christianity is not a teaching—it is a person. It is not merely a moral outlook that is to be applied in the realm of politics. You start with a historical person… What you need is to know Him and to come into a relationship with Him. You do not start with His teaching—you start with Him” (Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity, p.10). On that day in Nazareth’s synagogue, Jesus read from God’s word, and declared that he himself was the fulfillment of the prophetic word. A very bold claim! He announced that he had the Spirit of the Lord on him and that he was thus anointed to act for the blessing of God’s people. What would he accomplish on his mission? (It was a mission since he was sent. Christ’s whole earthly life was missional.) Let’s consider the first four parts of his mission.

  • Jesus the Messiah came to proclaim good news to the poor. Though Jesus did visit the rich and affluent, the bulk of his ministry was among the poor, common people. The very rich man (2 Corinthians 8:9) crossed the economic divide of mankind and served the poor. He told the poor that they could have incredible wealth, treasure in heaven, and that the Father in heaven cared for them and was able to provide for them. The person who truly understands their poverty will look to God for good news. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2b CSB). Christ’s good news is especially appreciated among those who openly confess their need of salvation. Do you know that you need Jesus to rescue you from the guilt, corruption, and consequences of sin? Romans 6:23.
  • Jesus the Messiah came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. Under the oppressive government of Rome, it would be easy to think of the Messiah offering political freedom. But as the entire context of Jesus’ teaching makes clear, he announced spiritual freedom from sin (John 8:31-36). Sin is a tyrant that rules over people and ruins their lives. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1a NIV).
  • Jesus the Messiah came to give recovery of sight for the blind. Our Lord healed the blind on several occasions. Each healing was a sign that he was the Messiah (Isaiah 35:5). As a sign it also pointed to the spiritual sight that people need. Read John 9.
  • Jesus the Messiah came to set the oppressed free. This comment is not part of the text of Isaiah 61; probably Jesus made an observation on the preceding items already mentioned to highlight the significance of his liberating work. A similar statement is found in what we call Isaiah 58:6, which is close to the passage he was reading. Rabbis would make comments like this, his hearers that day would not have objected to this insertion. Many preachers make occasional comments like this when they read a passage of Scripture. As I said, it draws the listeners’ attention to what the Servant of the Lord would accomplish, and Jesus was about to make that claim.

True Christianity is very much about the person, work, and work of Jesus Christ. He came to set people free spiritually and eternally. Do you have this liberty in Christ? It may be yours as a free gift today. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Grace and peace,
David

Jesus at Nazareth (Part Three)

Luke 4:16-30

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:18-21 NIV).

Attention was focused on Jesus in his hometown synagogue. He had found the Scripture to read, read it, and had properly given the scroll back to the attendant. Everyone waited to hear him. What would he say? Luke gives us one sentence of Christ’s words. But most probably his other remarks opened up the passage from Isaiah 61 that he had read. He would have explained how he himself was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. How can we make this assertion? We can make it by comparing Scripture with Scripture.

Listen to what the Lord Jesus said later in Luke’s Gospel. Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27 CSB). Our Savior and Teacher viewed the Bible as a book about him. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44 ESV). You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me (John 5:39 CSB). In the Scriptures, God tells us the story of his glory. He reveals who he is and what he does in the Word of God. So then, Jesus made a statement about himself and God, in his hometown synagogue. Obviously, this is a gigantic claim. If you or I said this, we would be blaspheming or insane. But Jesus was God and plainly spoke the truth about his identity.

His first word about himself is strangely the easiest to overlook. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me….” The church as a whole has not done much thinking about this truth, as Abraham Kuyper observed nearly 120 years ago. Since that time, the church as talked much about the Holy Spirit and the Christian. But there is not much discussion about the role of the Spirit in the person and work of Christ. Yet when Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, he started with this truth (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1). Here are some thoughts about the meaning of this:

  • The Holy Spirit acted in the conception of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Far beyond our comprehension, the Spirit acted to join the God the Son with true humanity from Mary to form Jesus Christ as one person with two natures (divine and human). In doing this, the Spirit of God kept Christ’s human nature free from the guilt and corruption of sin. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:26 ESV).
  • The Holy Spirit filled Jesus Christ. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit (John 3:34 NLT). God the Father poured out the Spirit on Jesus in his human nature. Jesus needed the Spirit as a man in order to live for the glory of God. The Spirit acted in Jesus fully to set him apart for God. This is seen, for example, in his growth from being a baby to a child to a man (Luke 2:40, 52). Though Jesus was separate from sin, he still needed to develop a godly way of life in the practical choices he made. As the writer of Hebrews says, Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8 NIV). The Spirit helped Jesus through this process.
  • The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism to indicate that he was the Son of God and to anoint him as the Messiah (our Prophet, Priest, and King). And the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22 CSB).
  • The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus as a man to do mighty works. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matthew 12:28 ESV). As Jesus read from Isaiah, he mentioned more of the signs and wonders he did by the Spirit of the Lord. We will consider this subject in more detail on our next post in this series.

As a practical point that others have pointed out, if Jesus Christ needed the Holy Spirit to live for God and to serve God, then how much more do we need the Spirit?

Grace and peace,
David

Then They Remembered

Luke 24:1-12

Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words (24:6b-8 CSB).

The historical authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is crucial to the Christian faith. Let us make no mistake. It does matter what we believe about the resurrection of Christ. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:14, 19. This Resurrection Sunday, let’s examine Luke’s account of this historical event. As we read the Four Gospels, we can discern that each one is a genuine account. No attempt has been made to smooth out the details. People told what they saw, and Matthew, Mark, Luke and John recorded their testimony.

The twenty-third chapter of Luke’s Gospel ends on a somber note. Jesus died, was buried, and then his followers rest on the Sabbath. Death and bondage fill the air. But then comes Sunday and a new age begins! Let us worship with our minds as Luke presents three important facts that filled that Sunday morning.

There was doubt concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Look at the identity of those who doubted. We might expect that Luke would record the unbelief of Christ’s opponents. But he does not. Instead, we hear of the unbelief of his followers!

  • The women doubted (24:1). Their love and loyalty to Jesus is commendable, but not their unbelief. You can be sincere, but wrong. The women went to anoint a dead body (observe the spices), and not to greet a risen Savior on his triumph over death. They had death, not life, on their minds.
  • The apostles doubted (24:11). None of them made an early trip to the tomb in order to see if Jesus had risen, as he said. They were sure that he was dead and gone. They continued to doubt, after others claimed he was raised. You can almost hear them talking among themselves, “What crazy women… Old wives tales!”

People commonly whitewash the failures of founders of movements. “Look at what great people they were!” The Bible does not do that. When God tells us about the greatest day in history, he openly discloses the failure of his people.

Consider the significance of their unbelief. Christ’s followers were not under a delusion. Such people seek something to fuel their false hopes. These people had abandoned hope. Their King, Teacher, and Friend was dead and that was all they would believe. The disciples were not ready to believe anything. They were skeptics. They dismissed testimony with a wave of the hand. They required irrefutable proof to change their minds. We sometimes marvel at the faith of Paul: that he was turned from persecutor to apostle. But the change of mind of these people was also remarkable. What about you? Have you had a change of mind about Christ’s resurrection?

There was evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Some people play games with words. They say that no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead, and therefore it is a non-historical event. Such people are too clever by half. Suppose we have a corpse of a man before us, but no one saw him die. The corpse is proof that the man is dead, regardless of whether or not anyone saw him die. We would not say that his death was not a historical event, because no one witnessed it. Beware of deceivers! Instead, in a few words, Luke presents two lines of evidence for Christ’s resurrection.

First, there is the evidence of the empty tomb. A theft did not take place by the disciples. The Roman guard was there to prevent any such theft (Matthew 27:62-66). Besides, people do not venture everything and die for a known lie. Nor did his enemies steal Christ’s body. They would have produced the body of Jesus and destroyed Christianity in its infancy. A swoon did not occur. Jesus clearly had died. Skilled executioners pronounced him dead (Mark 15:44-45), and there was the spear thrust (John 19:34) that showed clear evidence that he had died. In addition, Jesus showed himself to his followers as Lord of life, and not as someone barely alive.

Second, there was the evidence of the empty grave clothes (24:12; cf. John 20:5-8). Consider the manner of burial (cf. John 11:44; 19:38-40). His body had been wound in strips of cloth with spices intermingled in them. The empty grave clothes provide witness that Christ’s body was not stolen (why would they take a mangled body and leave the strips of cloth that were wound around him. Also, Jesus Christ was raised as no one had ever been raised before him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Colossians 1:18; John 20:19).

Those who oppose Jesus Christ have a major problem. Here is evidence that will stand the test in a court of law. The tomb where Jesus had been buried and which the Roman government guarded to prevent theft was empty, except for one thing. Inside that tomb were empty grave clothes. What group of fearful men or women is going to overpower trained guards whose life depends on preserving their watch? And if they could do that, would they unwind the grave clothes from the body, reform them to look like a body had disappeared, and carry off a mangled corpse? The idea is absurd. You have one good alternative at this point. Bow before the Risen Christ and confess that he is Lord.

There was testimony concerning the resurrection.

The angels testified (24:5-6). Their words convey a mild rebuke. Notice how they frame this rebuke. They do not ask why they seek the “risen” but the “living”. Do you look for the living in a cemetery? Consider Revelation 1:18. Every believer should realize that he or she is accountable to the living Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:24-27). Their words provided an explanation at the same time. He has risen! Death, that ancient foe of mankind, made its ultimate mistake. It met its Master!

Christ’s own words testified (24:7 cf. 9:22). His words spoke of divine necessity (cf. Acts 2:23; 4:28). His words had foretold the key events that had happened: his suffering, his death by crucifixion, and his resurrection. This should teach us the importance of knowing and understanding Christ’s words (Mark 1:15; Matthew 7:13-14; 9:37-38; John 14:3). They provide a framework for understanding life.

The women testified (24:8-10). Then they remembered Christ’s words (NIV). Suddenly, God the Holy Spirit helped them comprehend what Jesus had told them. For this reason, they went and spread the message of what they had seen and heard. Compare 24:22-23. All believers should provide a similar testimony.

Then they remembered Christ’s words. What about you? Do you know in your heart that Christ has been raised from the dead? How is the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection changing your life?

Grace and peace
David

The Lord’s Supper and Changes (Part Two)

Luke 22:14-23

And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you (22:19-20 CSB).

The time for the beginning of the new age and Christ’s new covenant had come (22:19-20).

Jesus instituted a new meal of remembrance

A meal is a sign of death and life. Whatever you eat has come to the end of its life. Yet you have life through the death of what you eat. Life is given that life might continue. The Lord uses the physical sign to teach us this spiritual truth. We live because Jesus died. So we must think of his death that gives us life.

A meal also is a time and sign of sharing. He “gave it to them”; “for you”. At the Lord’s Table, we join with others who confess they receive life through the death of Jesus Christ. It is a time for Christ’s new family to share their faith in the Lord Jesus together. As the apostle Paul later wrote, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”. We preach this shared faith and hope to one another.

The Lord Jesus Christ event to focus on himself.

It is too easy to become self-centered, including during the Lord’s Supper when we are supposed to be celebrating God’s glory in Christ. It is an occasion to declare God’s worth. The Lord Jesus wants us to think on him; he wants us to recall his great act of deliverance. He wants us to think on him, our Redeemer and Rescuer.

It is to spur us on during our time of separation from him. (You see, we need to remember him, because he is not physically present with us now, and we so weakly rely on our physical senses.) We live in a brief interim, like a business trip, until Jesus comes to restore all things (Acts 3:21).

Are your thoughts fixed on Jesus?

But look, the hand of the one betraying me is at the table with me. For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do it (22:21-23 CSB).

Jesus spoke of the trials of the new (22:21-23). The new age arrives through troubles. Salvation comes through judgment. The judgment we deserved fell upon Jesus the Messiah.

Here was a time of the struggle of the purpose of God versus the schemes of evil. It was a time of faithfulness versus unfaithfulness. Christ’s people still must stay true to the Lord and the gospel, because some false brothers among us won’t. Yet this trial was the time of God working out his ultimate victory. There was also uncertainty about the identity of the traitor. The betrayer acted like he wasn’t the man, though he had already sold Christ over to his enemies. The faithful disciples questioned themselves. True believers know their weakness, since we all struggle constantly with remaining sin. We learn the desperate evil that is still in our hearts and know too well where it could end. How are you doing in this struggle?

Lessons:

  • Let those who follow Jesus remember that we are part of the ongoing story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. 
  • Set your heart on the reign of God that will soon come. Our Lord’s return is nearer now than when we first believed. Are you ready?

Grace and peace,
David

The Lord’s Supper and Changes (Part One)

Luke 22:14-23

When the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. Then he said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (9:14-18 CSB).

One day when I was a young teen, I bought a couple of “surfer shirts” for a dollar or two each. I think that they were the first clothes I had ever bought with my own money. I wore those shirts for years—through high school, college, and our first ten years or so of marriage. Finally, Sharon convinced me that it was time to get rid of those shirts. It was time for a change.

God is working out a long-term plan to display and to share his surpassing glory through the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of that plan involved his choice of a nation through which he would bring forth his Son, Jesus Christ. He made a covenant or solemn agreement of relationship with that nation, Israel. He administered that covenant through priests and sacrifices and the observance of laws and rituals. Everything in that covenant pointed to a better covenant in Christ that he would make with people chosen by grace from all nations. 

In our text the Lord Jesus began to establish changes. These are changes from the law or old covenant made at Sinai to the new and better covenant in Jesus Christ. But like throwing away my surfer shirts, people have trouble accepting that God has made changes in Christ. Some people want to hang on to the laws and the rituals; others want to hang on to the old people with their separate physical, national existence; others want to stay with both. But Jesus says that a new day has come with a new covenant made by his blood. This new covenant brings with it a new people, a new spiritual nation in Christ Jesus and with better, eternal promises. Let’s think through these matters.

The time for the fulfillment of the law or old covenant had arrived. This meant the time for the fulfillment of its ceremonies, like the Passover (22:14-18).

The Passover was a time for family and neighbors to remember together God’s mighty act of redemption (Exodus 12:3-4; 24-27). Jesus acted as the head of the family to lead them in the remembrance. So in the previous section, he took charge in making sure everything was ready (Luke 22:7-13). His apostles were his family for that meal. Jesus eagerly desired to share this remembrance with them. He could recall what he did to bring Israel out of Egypt. So he leads the celebration of God’s faithfulness and power. He could use this celebration to continue to point them to his greater exodus (Luke 9:31). As everything for Israel pointed back to the exodus from Egypt, so everything for the new covenant assembly points back to the greater exodus of the cross and the resurrection.

The old Passover celebration had reached the end or goal of its purpose. Jesus was about to die as the ultimate and final Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Listen to and meditate on his words “before I suffer” (cf. Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:31-34). His mind was fixed on what the Father had given him to carry out.

The next Passover that Jesus will partake of with his disciples is the one in the kingdom of God, which John later calls “the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Now we must remember that “kingdom of God” equals “the reign of God”. The reign of God that Jesus is speaking of began with his appearance, was proclaimed in his teaching, was established by his death and resurrection, and will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth. Here Jesus points to the fulfillment. But first he had to suffer and die as the Lamb of God to deliver his people from sin, guilt, and punishment. Then he could enter into glory (cf. 1 Peter 1:11).

Grace and peace,
David

Developing a Gospel Attitude (Part Three)

Luke 9:46-56

When the days were coming to a close for him to be taken up, he determined to journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of himself, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. But they did not welcome him, because he determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village (9:51-56 CSB).

We have seen the hindrances of pride and a party spirit to a gospel attitude, an attitude of good news to others. Next we turn to the hindrance of poor theology.

The still learning apostles had a frightening outpouring of misinformed zeal. They had much to learn about the attitudes of Jesus Christ and how to live in conformity with his gentleness, love, compassion, goodness, and kindness. We all need to be growing in these constantly.

This event occurred in a context of opposition to Christ. The time was approaching for his ascension. (How rarely has the church thought of our Lord’s ascension into glory. I can safely state that Christians know much more about the feeding of the five thousand than they do about the ascension.) But in order to reach the time of glory, Jesus had to walk the road to the cross: “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11). Therefore, Jesus headed to Jerusalem to die on the cross for sinners. This is the turning point in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was intent on doing all that was necessary to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

However, because he was heading for Jerusalem, the Samaritans would not welcome him. They were mired in ethnic prejudice. Hatred runs very deep in human hearts. For example, I need look no further for an illustration of this than the utterly horrific political hatred continuing in this serious time of world crisis. Tear down the other side; hinder progress for the sake of political gamesmanship! Such true hate-speech is deplorable. What the Samaritans did angered James and John. They were zealous for Jesus and wanted him to be honored by people. But what kind of zeal did they have? They very sadly went in a wrong direction.

So then, they asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy Jesus’ opponents. At the very least, you could say that they were confident! They were sure that God would answer their request to protect Jesus’ honor. But this is a tragic-comedy! Do you get this picture? Two lowly fisherman are asking the Son of God if he wants them to call down from heaven. In one sense, it must have been hard for Jesus to keep a straight face. Of course, you and I probably never have an exaggerated idea of our own greatness, do we? The problem is that this was not funny. They were talking about judging people to eternal destruction.

Jesus sternly rebuked them. Luke simply states that Jesus turned and rebuked them. Did he say something like the textual variant in the footnote suggests? He may have. Perhaps he plainly said, “Have you men been listening to anything I’ve said? Be quiet and follow me.”

Whatever Jesus said, the point is clear. They didn’t understand his mission to save sinners by dying on the cross to propitiate God’s wrath. They were in a wrath mentality. Tell me, which do you read more of in the four Gospels: Jesus calling down fire from heaven and destroying town after town in Palestine or Jesus tenderly revealing God’s love and mercy?

The disciples did not understand the spirit or attitude of Christ and his better covenant. They were still living under the law, and the smoke and thunder of Sinai still motivated them. Jesus was taking them to another mountain called Golgotha, where he would satisfy God’s holy wrath against sinners. He had told them twice that he would be delivered into the hands of men. Yet at the first instance of opposition, they run back to the old mountain Sinai.

I’m not trying to be hard on James and John. I would not have done any better. But what troubles me is to hear Christians nearly 2,000 years later talking with an old covenant attitude. The world doesn’t treat us Christians as kings, and immediately someone is calling for God’s wrath to fall on them. Forget revenge! That dish is so spicy and hot that only God can handle it. Instead, get busy doing what the Lord Christ wants you to do. Tell all people everywhere the good news of the gospel; pray for your enemies.

Action Step: Tell people compassionately, “You are making God angry by your rebellion against him. In spite of that, there is good news. God so loves rebellious people that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for their acts of rebellion. Now why will you perish forever under God’s wrath? Turn to Jesus and receive mercy for his sake.”

Action Step: God what us to be zealous for him, but our emotions must be guided by God’s truth. Where do you need to change your emotions according to God’s word?

Grace and peace,
David

Developing a Gospel Attitude (Part Two)

Luke 9:46-56

John responded, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us.” “Don’t stop him,” Jesus told him, “because whoever is not against you is for you” (9:49-50 CSB).

Perhaps John, the one closest to Jesus, was troubled by what our Lord had just taught, as he remembered something that the apostles had done. So he asked the Lord about it. The second hindrance to a gospel attitude is a party-spirit (9:49-50).

John confessed a troubling occurrence of misplaced zeal. We should not miss the fact that John’s admission comes from those who are loyal to a cause or a group. In particular, John’s statement shows a concern for the honor of Christ’s name. That was good. We ought to be zealous for the Lord and his truth. May many more have a godly zeal!

However, joined with that was a misdirected concern for “our group”. There are a number of manifestations of this attitude. I’ll suggest three that continue to trouble us in our time.

  • There are those who are in a denomination, association, or fellowship of churches and who take pride in “our confession of faith” or “our missionary or ministry organizations or methods” or “our religious heritage”. They seem believe that the first ten rows in heaven are reserved for their group. If you don’t think this is so, attend a meeting or conference where one group has the majority. Don’t be surprised when after a few strained polite words that people walk away from you when they discover that you’re not part of their group. Christianity is supposed to be a brotherhood. This group type twists it into a secret society.
  • There are those who are in a growing church and who boast “there’s no place like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place”. (I’ve actually heard that said.) They are usually quick to point out that their church is “alive” while others are “dead”, or “they have the truth” and others “are in error”. Again, growing churches and experience-centered churches are prone to this error.
  • There are those who are in a siege mentality, valiantly “preserving the truth or standards of Christian living”. People with this mentality usually talk like Elijah at his worst. “We’re the only ones left!” They are intent on preserving traditions and group identity at all costs. Talk about loving others and inviting outsiders in is a threat to those in this kind of practical error. They also fear change that new participants in their group might request.  

Action Step: Let us never cut down other churches or Christians in a silly attempt to make ourselves look good. If we follow Christ faithfully, he will send his sheep to any gathering of believers.

The Lord Christ gave a sobering reply. It was a swift, direct put down. “Don’t stop him,” Jesus told him, “because whoever is not against you is for you.”. Stop it!

The Lord Jesus does not need our help as deputy sheriffs to keep his church in line. We might have the best of intentions, but we rarely have the discernment required to do more than to attend to our responsibilities. Jesus simply tells John, “Do not stop him.” You have probably seen some of the old Andy Griffith shows. Dear old Barney was eager to be a good deputy, but many times Andy had to ask him to hand over his bullet. Too many Christians, especially pastors and elders, including some prominent leaders, need to hand their “spiritual bullets” over to the Lord High Sheriff, Jesus.

Again, the disciples had missed a key point. The man was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. (John had said that!) The man spoken of was not opposing the work of God through the apostles. So then, he wasn’t against them but for them.

Biblical separation from error or an ungodly way of life for the cause of God and truth is a constant duty of Christ’s church. But separation just because someone isn’t in our group or because they fail to dot their “Is” and cross their “Ts” as nicely as we do is very, very wrong.

Action Step: We should “walk as far on the right road as we can” with other believers. This is important for you on the job. You may need the help of that other believer in your stand for Christ. It is important right now in your neighborhood to show Christian love before a watching world. Many are in need and suffering and even dying. Help all as you are able and as you have the opportunity! It is important for every local body of believers. As someone once said, “Christians should hang together or we may all hang separately.”

We must learn to accept one another, though we may differ on some matters. Heated controversy attracts feisty people, but it rarely changes anyone’s minds according to the Scriptures. The apostle Paul, who was not reluctant to confront people for error also wrote, Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7 NIV).

Grace and peace,
David

Developing a Gospel Attitude (Part One)

Luke 9:46-56

An argument started among them about who was the greatest of them. But Jesus, knowing their inner thoughts, took a little child and had him stand next to him. He told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me. For whoever is least among you—this one is great” (9:46-48 CSB).

In recent posts, we have read of Jesus’s transfiguration, in which something of his divine glory was revealed to Peter, James, and John. Following that picture of his majesty, they went down the mountain to rejoin the other apostles. There they encountered human misery. What a contrast! It remains true at this moment. God is seated in his glorious majesty over all, and we live in the misery of sin, suffering, and death. Do not blame God; we humans have brought and continue to bring this on ourselves by our rebellion against God. If you understand, weep over people without God and without hope in this world.

We come now to a practical test that followed Christ’s instruction. Sadly, what the apostles learned was not changing how they thought and acted. Their attitudes needed to be reworked. In this section (9:46-56), we will consider three hindrances to a gospel attitude and what should we do about them.

The first hindrance is pride (9:46-48).

The apostles exhibited an incredible circumstance of idolatrous zeal. Their behavior was way out of line. Who would think that grown men would act like this? Did you ever collect milk weed pods when you were a kid? It was lots of fun, right? My wife and I have done it with our granddaughter. To watch her joy was a pleasure. Do any of you adults long to do it again without children around? You put away that childish activity and many more. You don’t say to your adult friends, “Let’s go find some milk weed pods, break them open, and watch their seeds scatter!” Followers of Christ should have a holy disinterest in pride. “That was part of our old way of life! We don’t want to do that any longer.”

Christ’s perception of the apostles was correct. He knew their thoughts. He knows our thoughts. The Lord knows when we fail to humble ourselves before God and others. He sees our self-reliance in our abilities; he knows our arrogant opinions, when we refuse to submit to the teaching of God’s word (cf. Psalm 139:1-6).

Jesus provided a searching illustration. Here it was like an object lesson. He didn’t tell a story this time. He welcomed a little child. That child, and every child, has eternal significance. Made in God’s image, he or she will exist somewhere forever. Jesus loves children. Woe to those who do not!

The significance of the child in this example is not in his personal humility but in the child’s relative insignificance to people, especially in the opinion of adult men. Jesus did not tell them to have the child’s attitude but to accept the child’s place. They were focused on who had the best credentials. The boy had no claim to fame in their eyes. He had no proud position. People not absorbed with the child’s greatness. Were those disciples willing to be insignificant?

However, we must not stop with humility. If we do, we are still focused on self. It is possible to read this passage and come out of it as a moralist instead of a Christian. Listen carefully to Jesus’ emphasis (9:48). Do we welcome even children in Jesus’ name? Or do we ignore them?

The important fact is to view the child in relation to Jesus. Would they be content to serve the child for Christ’s sake? Would they welcome him in the name of the Lord? To do so is to extend a welcome to Jesus. But to pass by a child in a quest for greatness is to miss an opportunity to honor the Lord!

Joined with this truth is the relation of Jesus to God the Father, the one who sent Jesus. If you welcome Jesus, you also welcome the living God. Christ is leading them to focus on the significance of the One that they confessed to be the Christ of God.

 Whatever temporary lesson the disciples may have learned is obscured by John’s statement in the next verse. But however they benefited, we are wise to ask ourselves, “Do we get the point?”

Ask yourself sometime today, “How much do I really care about children? Do I view them as unimportant, especially compared to how great ‘we adults’ are? How much am I doing to bring children into a saving relationship with Jesus? Do I pray for them? Am I stirred to have compassion on them?”

Grace and peace
David

A Father’s Plea for His Son (Part Two)

Luke 9:37-45

I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.” Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” As the boy was still approaching, the demon knocked him down and threw him into severe convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And they were all astonished at the greatness of God (9:40-43a CSB).

Next in this section, we see a society unable to help to father or his son (9:40-41a). Here was the weakness of the church in its early form, nine of the Twelve apostles. Even though the apostles had cast out demons before this, they were unable to help now. They later asked the Lord why they could not (Mark 9:28-29). Many look to the church in their time of need. Unless the church has the wisdom to point them to the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be disappointed. A church without the power of the risen Christ cannot help this needy world. How are we demonstrating that Jesus Christ is able to save and to change lives?

We also observe the corruption of the world. Jesus was very troubled by what he saw. The whole scene reeked of sin, especially two sins. There was the sin of unbelief. The father had little faith, the apostles did not act in faith, and it is doubtful that the crowds believed that the boy could be healed. There also was the sin of religious perversity. The law experts were debating with the disciples, rather than being concerned about the needs of a boy made in the image of God (Mark 9:14). When someone is in need is not the time to engage in doctrinal debates. Yes, we must always serve others according to the truth, but I refer to foolish arguments when there are hurting people to be helped. Such evil talk can be no more than an attempted smokescreen to hide from the duty to help others. Let us minister to the hurting, the grief-stricken, and the emotionally distraught when they are before us. During this pandemic, we all have such opportunities.

Our hearts and thoughts should be fixed on the Savior who is able to heal (9:41b-43b). Rejoice in the Lord’s willingness to heal. The words “Bring your son here” are an invitation to the boy and his father to experience the Savior’s power. First, Christ ministers hope to the father. One of the first things you need to share with people around you is hope. We live in the age of despair, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic. People everywhere are falling deeper into the swamp of depression. Its leads to suicide. It also leads to alcohol abuse. My friends, we have hope in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Every sinner can be sure to find words of welcome from Jesus Christ. Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NLT; cf. Mark 10:14, 21, 49).

Most people who read these blogs are believers in Jesus Christ. But I don’t know where these words might be found by others. So I say this. Though you may have been alienated from God, he is willing to receive and forgive people that have not had room for him in their lives. You may have opposed God and not loved God. But today, there is good news! Step back into full reality and ask the living God to become involved in your life in a personal way. The way to God is through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. He will never turn you away.

Let us consider Christ’s almighty power. He had power over the demon. He rebuked the evil foe and cast him out of the boy. At the same time he had power over physical injury. He healed the boy of all his afflictions. And Christ’s compassion. He gave the boy back to his father. Jesus “not only heals the paralytic but also forgives him (5:17-24), not only cures the centurion’s servant but also commends the centurion (7:2-10), not only restores to health the Gergesene demoniac but also makes him a missionary (8:26-39), not only heals but also comforts the woman who touched his garment (8:43-48), not only raises from the dead the daughter of Jairus but also sees to it that the child gets something to eat (8:40-42, 49-56)… just as the son of Nain’s widow was not only raised from the dead but then also very tenderly returned to his mother…” so now the boy is returned to his father (Hendriksen).

The Savior focused on his mission (9:43b-45). Christ reminded the disciples of his mission. He did this while the crowds were caught up in the experience of the miracle. They are only concerned about the wonder that occurred. His followers or learners must see deeper. Think about the significance! God’s Son is present! Repent! He directed them to pay careful attention to God’s plan for his Son. “All this should not make you forget the reason that I am here.”

The apostles failed to grasp what Jesus was telling them. What is the meaning of “It was hidden from them.” Who hid it from them? The test does not say, so it is useless to speculate. What we should learn is that in situations more than human agents may be involved. They visibly failed. The solution to their ignorance was right beside them. Yet they were afraid to ask Jesus! The lesson is not merely that good men may be spiritually ignorant. It is not an excuse for you or me to remain ignorant. Instead, Luke tells us what we should do about spiritual ignorance.

What should parents do when we are troubled about our children? We should pray. Call on the name of the Lord who is able to save. Spread the whole situation before the Lord. Tell him your sorrows and your fears. Ask him to be merciful to your child. The Lord Jesus cares about the sorrows of concerned parents. As long as a child lives and a parent prays, there is hope.

Will Christ receive children who come to him? Yes, he will! The gospels are filled with examples of his interest in children: the nobleman’s son, Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, and so on. The Holy Spirit has not recorded these mighty works of Christ for without reason. They are meant to show us the interest of the Lord Jesus Christ in children. To some people, children do not count. But the Lord cares about children. So must we. Let us be diligent in bringing our children to Jesus.

We should learn the need for more than amazement. Yes, the people were amazed about what had happened. But did it do them any good? Don’t rest in any experience of religious excitement until by grace you find the Son of God.

Grace and peace,
David

A Father’s Plea for His Son (Part One)

Luke 9:37-45

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, because he’s my only child. A spirit seizes him; suddenly he shrieks, and it throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; severely bruising him, it scarcely ever leaves him” (9:37-39 CSB).

In this passage we see the concern of any normal father for the well-being of his child. Every kind father wants his children to be healthy, properly clothed, fed, housed, and educated. He wants them to live in safety, peace and happiness.

Such a father we read about in our Scripture text of this morning. He is not an “absentee father”. He is concerned and involved. He is on the job. However, his son is in desperate need. What can this man do to help his son? How can we best help our children? Let us carefully consider the word of God together to see what this man learned and experienced.

However, as we consider this event, let us see Jesus. This event directly followed the Transfiguration. In the last section, we saw Jesus in a revelation of his divine majesty, receiving glory and honor from God the Father. But now, Jesus leaves the mountaintop and returns to the other disciples in the valley below. In both places we see that Jesus is Lord over all. This is important. Jesus was Lord in whatever earthly condition he experienced. He was Lord teaching the crowds, healing the sick, walking dusty roads, going out for dinner, and he was Lord as he hung on the cross. Jesus is Lord, regardless of our condition, whether we are full of faith or filled with fear, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, full of joy or full of sorrow, or whatever condition we might be in. Jesus is Lord.

In our text, we encounter a son in trouble (9:37-39). This boy had a serious affliction. A demon had taken possession of him. We could waste a lot of time in useless guessing about how this happened. The Spirit has not revealed how this occurred. Restrain yourself from empty speculation when the Bible is silent. I know that some believers cannot resist this temptation, but turn from it immediately! What we should see is that the dark powers of evil were certainly at work then; they still are today.

Observe the demon’s influence over the boy. See how they work to destroy human beings. The demon sought to destroy the child emotionally, socially, and physically. Why do I say socially? Would you want a child like that near you? (Be honest.) Think about how the boy’s emotions were being ripped apart. And what about the physical pain he endured? This was a war of dark horror to destroy a human.

 Perhaps someone is wondering how we should meet such adversaries in our day. The Lord has not given us instruction about exorcism, but on spiritual resistance and evangelism (Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Acts 26:18). To say this another way, a follower of Christ should always be wearing his or her spiritual armor and should always be ready to give an answer for our hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).

Look at the boy’s resultant physical injury. Some have said that his symptoms resemble epilepsy. But without adequate medical facts, there is no reason to give any opinion. We know that the evil powers are able to cause disease (Job 2:7), so epilepsy would be included. Besides what Luke records here, Mark tells us that the boy was also deaf and mute (Mark 9:25). Here was a tragic case.

Think on his father’s efforts to help him. Oh, the heartache of parents when their child or children are ill or seriously injured! Every loving parent will shudder when they read what this father tried to do for his son. He had made previous attempts. After whatever else he had tried, he had heard of the ability of Jesus and the disciples to cast out demons, and so he took his boy there (Mark 6:12-13). He had come to his last hope: the return of Jesus from the Mount of Transfiguration. “Perhaps Jesus can rescue my boy!”

Have you come to the place in your life where you realize that all depends on Jesus? Children across our land are having an increasing problem coping with what is happening now. They cannot grasp why their world has changed. As the corona virus currently ravages our world, few are calling on the name of the Lord for deliverance. Fewer still want to turn from their sins. People need to repent of greed, violence, racism, and sexual immorality. Repent and then pray for deliverance. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18 NIV). Let’s humble ourselves before Almighty God today.

Grace and peace,
David