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,

The Case of the Unbelieving Believer

Luke 1:18-25

The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19 CSB).

Unlike many people, I have never been into watching crime and detective shows. The exception would be Dragnet, which I always watched with my dad, including reruns. But I digress. We all know that detectives attempt to solve cases that involve murders or other crimes. Counselors also consult case stories with others to help them learn how to help others. In Zechariah, we have a case of a believer who failed to believe.

Let us understand clearly that Zechariah was a believer. How do we know this? The Holy Spirit had already guided Luke to write that Zechariah and his wife were upright in the sight of God (Luke 1:6 NIV). The only way anyone can be right with God is by grace through faith (Romans 3-4). His faith showed itself in his works, in his zeal to obey God. The Spirit wants us to know that Zechariah was a good man.

Zechariah had heard a message of good news for himself and his people through the angel. His prayer for a son would be answered. His heart ought to have been rejoicing! But… he began to doubt. He looked at his and his wife’s physical capabilities and knew that in the normal course of life, childbirth was impossible for them. This is where you and I often get trapped. How many times have I seen a church count noses and pocketbooks and assume that a challenge to move forward for the Lord was simply “impossible”. This corporate experience is simply the overflow of the hearts of the members of the church, who have for long years assumed that it was simply “impossible” for them to see their friends and neighbors become followers of Christ. And so, they choose easy ways “to serve the Lord”, like being greeters or working in the nursery or buying cookies for Vacation Bible School or serving on church boards and committees. Faith in God is simply “impossible”, because they live by sight, rather than by faith. I can’t listen to Zechariah explain his failure to believe God two thousand years later, but I’m rather certain where our failures lie.

Gabriel, God’s chosen messenger, did not shrug off Zechariah’s unbelief, like you and I regularly do. Contemporary Christians have a very short list of sins, and our unbelief and the unbelief of our family and friends isn’t on the list. In fact, if anyone raises the issue of our unbelief, we become huffy and “hurt” by the mere suggestion. All right, I’ll risk “offending” you. What matters of unbelief in God and his provision are you struggling with? Could you be a case of another unbelieving believer? Back to Gabriel, he had a “tough love” response to Zechariah’s unbelief. He removes his ability to speak until his son is born. Boom! And let him know that Gabriel’s message will certainly happen. Boom!

Since Zechariah could no longer speak, Luke returns to the waiting worshipers. They wondered about his delay in performing the ritual, and on his return to the temple courts, they realized that he could not speak. He had some kind of vision in the temple, but they didn’t know what had happened.

When Zechariah finished his temple service, he went home. Then he acted in faith and made love to his wife, and… she became pregnant, though he had previously thought it “impossible”. Here is the good news. The unbelieving believer can return to believing when he or she trusts God and his promises in the Good News. God works through the good news of the gospel to save (Romans 1:16-17) and to change (Titus 2:11-14) his people. You and I can by grace turn back to a believing condition. As for Elizabeth, she believed, since she traced back her pregnancy, not to natural circumstances, but to the power of God. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (1:25 NIV). Thank God that the gospel is always good news for his people. So then, let’s trust God to do what he sets before us!

Grace and peace, David

Because You Did Not Believe

20131221_192030Luke 1:18-25

We must remember what the Holy Spirit already said of Zechariah the priest. He was right with God and a fully committed follower of the Lord (Luke 1:6). He was a righteous man, but he was not a perfect man. Righteous people still struggle with sin in all its ugliness. Sadly, Christians have a skewed view of sin, assuming that believers commit rather petty sins. This conveniently forgets that all sins are against the Holy God. One sin we struggle against is unbelief. It was about to lead Zechariah into difficulty.

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news (Luke 1:18-19 ESV).

Zechariah gave a reasonable, from his point of view, response to the angel’s good news. In many Bible studies over many years, I have heard professed Christians respond to the truth of God’s word like Zechariah did. Though the message was supernatural, which requires submissive faith, they reacted to it with natural, human-centered reasoning. Zechariah did not consider the power of God. He could only think about what he and his wife could do. When God’s word is clear, we must trust God and do what the word tells us. It might not make sense, we might raise several scenarios that indicate improbability, but we must rely on God’s ability, faithfulness, and love. Gabriel quickly pointed out what Zechariah ignored. He was sent from the presence of God in heaven to tell him good news. Why was Zechariah doubting and arguing against good news? Sadly, followers of Christ too often argue against God’s good news for them, exchanging faith in God for their supposed wisdom.

“And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home (Luke 1:20-23 ESV).

Zechariah received discipline from the Lord. The reason was his unbelief. God used him to teach all of us the importance of faith in God’s word. The discipline corresponded to his sin. He failed to believe God’s message, so the Lord took away his ability to speak for a time. We should realize that the Lord requires us to take his word very seriously. Though we might struggle to understand it, we are not free to debate it. God’s word is the starting point for how we look at this world and our lives. For this reason, Zechariah had to ponder the supremacy of God’s word for the full length of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people” (Luke 1:24-25 ESV).

Elizabeth’s response was better. She believed and thanked the Lord for his mercy to her. Children are a gift from God, and we should highly treasure them. This Christmas, if you have children at your family gathering, reflect on the blessing of God to your family. Pay attention to them. Play with them. Rejoice with them. Laugh with them. Though Zechariah doubted the Lord’s promise, his doubts could not hinder their fulfillment. Praise God for this truth!

Grace and peace, David

Decrease in Spirituality

IMG_09932 Chronicles 16:7-10

Last time we remarked about the honesty of God’s word. The Holy Spirit does not cover-up the sins of believers. This is far from the course of this world, where political parties hide, cover-up, explain away, and blame shift the sins and errors of their candidates. You will never hear political parties admit, “Yeah, we’re asking you to vote for a deeply flawed person.” But God wants us to see that he graciously works with and through sinful people. Asa is one example. He was loyal to the Lord God his whole life; he didn’t turn from the Lord to false gods. Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life (15:17 NIV). Yet in his latter days, Asa refused to listen to God’s Word.

For this reason, God sent a prophet to rebuke Asa for his lack of faith. As we have already observed, there were many sins connected with what Asa did. But Hanani the prophet focused on the crucial point: Asa’s unbelief in God’s power. Unbelief is the epitome of evil, because it worships what is created rather than the Creator. Unbelief also leads to foolishness, since it turns from the faithful God to humanity, which is weak and undependable. Consider the words of Jeremiah. For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13 HCSB).

The prophet reminded Asa about God’s previous mercy. He told Asa that he had acted against his own experience of what the Lord could do. Every time we experience an answer to our prayers, it remains as a witness of God’s all-ability to needs yet to come. For example, over many years, I have seen God supply financial needs for various gatherings of Christ’s people. Those local churches experienced this year after year. But at the end of one year would come the cry, “Where will the money come from for the next year?” Why do we do this? What don’t we depend on the Lord? It’s like we want to see God’s provision in hand before we have the need or pray. I have truthfully said, “I don’t know where the money (or whatever the need is) will come from, but I am certain that we can always trust God, who is able to do much more than we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

“But see how deceitful our hearts are! We trust in God when we have nothing else to trust to, when needs drives us to him; but, when we have other things to stay on, we are apt to stay too much on them and to lean to our own understanding as long as that has any thing to offer; but a believing confidence will be on God only, when a smiling world courts it most” (Henry).

The prophet told Asa that he had acted against the truth of what God is. God was well aware of what his people needed. The schemes of Baasha were no surprise to him. And God was committed to help his people in their need (cf. Philippians 4:19), when their hearts are committed to him. Asa forgot the truths of God’s sovereignty, omniscience, faithfulness, and mercy to his own hurt. Sound theology is important to a healthy walk with God. The prophet also told Asa that he had acted against his own best interests. Asa had turned from the God of peace; therefore, from that point he will experience trouble.

Tragically, Asa rebelled against God’s message. He did not repent but hardened his heart.

He persecuted God’s prophet. This initiated a course of action in Israel that the Lord Jesus later condemned (Matthew 23:29-39). When we open the doors to sinful ways, we have no idea what the end will be. He oppressed some of the people. In a sinful world, many otherwise innocent people are adversely affected by the sins of leaders. The sinful actions of political leaders of both major parties in our nation are ruining the lives of many people. It is time for God’s people to turn from political hopes to fresh dependence on the living God.

Grace and peace, David