Jesus Explains God’s Plan (Part Three)

Luke 18:31-34

Then he took the Twelve aside and told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything that is written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles, and he will be mocked, insulted, spit on; and after they flog him, they will kill him, and he will rise on the third day.” They understood none of these things. The meaning of the saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (CSB).

Jesus’ teaching was not understood by the disciples. We, very sadly, have a “superstar” mentality in the American church regarding preachers and teachers. People assume that if they had a mega-gifted pastor that both they and their church would be much better. That assumption is wrong for several reasons, but notice in this text that the disciples understood nothing about what Jesus had taught them. None of these things! Now Jesus is the Teacher. Obviously, there are other factors than a great teacher in our growth in grace and knowledge.

Let’s learn some lessons about ourselves.

  • We are not nearly as smart and insightful as we give ourselves credit for being. Here were men who constantly heard the Lord Jesus teach for three years and who were eyewitnesses of many miraculous signs, and they didn’t understand any of this! How much of the Christian message can you explain to someone outside? Truthfully, what can you do? Picture yourself being asked tough questions by your friends. What can you tell them about God, mankind, sin, Christ and the way of salvation? If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for three years, you ought to be able to explain a lot!
  • We must not lose patience with one another in the church. We expect to say something once and everyone immediately understands. Peter, John and Matthew all wrote significant books in the Bible later on, but here they don’t know anything! However, we must apply ourselves to learning the Bible. Simply doing little devotional readings will not accomplish this.

Let’s learn some lessons about grace.

  • This text does not say who hid this from them or how it was hidden. Neither do the parallel passages in Matthew or Mark. So again, it is useless to speculate. Every Christian must learn to be silent where the text of the Bible is silent. That is a tough lesson to learn, because we have so many questions!
  • However, following on the heels of Christ’s instruction about the impossibility of salvation by human effort, we ought to think about how this lack of understanding can be corrected. This only happens when God teaches the truth to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit gave the New Testament Scriptures though the apostles and prophets, he explained the meaning and significance of the cross and the empty tomb to them. We have that explanation written in God’s word. We should praise God for this written instruction. But in another sense, we still need the work of the Holy Spirit, if we are to understand. Praise God; he can open minds darkened by sin to the glories of saving grace.

Has the Spirit of God given you an understanding of the sufferings and glories of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man? Are you relying on him for salvation? What is impossible for you is very possible for God.

Grace and peace, David


img_33221 Samuel 16:1-13

Life is filled with waiting. We wait for babies to develop in the womb and be born. We wait for many months as they grow from crawling to toddling to walking. We wait for them to talk. When we were little children, we waited for the nights we could stay up later and for days we could go more places outside our homes. (How sad to be a child in this time and never know the joy of exploring the woods with your young friends!) When we were children, we waited to become teenagers. When we were teens, we waited to get our driver’s licenses and to go out with our friends. We had to wait to graduate, so that we could go to college, or start a career, or go into the military. We had to wait to buy our first car, to get married, to have children, or to buy a house.  Then we had to wait for our own children to grow, to grow on a dream vacation, or to accomplish many goals. We wait for half marathon runners to finish their race. Life is filled with waiting.

David, the shepherd and psalmist, had to wait. When he was a teen, God had Samuel the old prophet anoint David as the next king of Israel. But David did not immediately become king. Instead, David had to wait. He had to serve under the man he was to replace as king. This might have been beneficial for David in many ways but it was not pleasant. Though he married Saul’s daughter Michal, he quickly became an outcast, and his father-in-law chased him for years around Israel and finally out of it. This involved much suffering for David and set the stage for a tense, dysfunctional relationship with Michal. When he was thirty, David finally became king – but only over one tribe, not the whole nation. He had to endure seven and a half bitter years of civil unrest while he waited to become king over the whole nation. David had to wait, and it wasn’t pleasant.

The Bible is filled with many stories of people who had to wait, and many of these were strong believers in the true and living God. Abraham and Sarah waited until he was one hundred and she was ninety until Isaac was born. Isaac and Rebekah had no sons until he was sixty. Jacob had to wait seven years to marry Rachel, and many more to escape the domination of his father-in-law. Moses had to wait and tend sheep for forty years until it was God’s time for him to rescue his people, and the rest of his life was filled with waiting forty more years to go into the Promised Land. But he never made it because he lost his patience. Joshua and Caleb had to wait forty years to enter the Promised Land, because of the unbelief of their contemporaries, who perished in the wilderness. Then they had to wait to get their inheritance until the conquest was complete. Many of the people of God had to wait long years to do what the Lord had called them to do. And some of them suffered in many ways in their years of waiting. Life is filled with waiting.

The Holy Spirit counsels us in the word about waiting:

  • He advises us to wait. Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14 HCSB).
  • He tells us that we will find new strength as we wait on the Lord. But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 ESV).
  • He informs us that we must all wait for the coming of complete redemption. The waiting is not pleasant. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23 ESV). See also (Galatians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Peter 3:12).
  • The Spirit works patience in us that we might wait. The fruit of the Spirit is… patience (Galatians 5:22 NASV; etc.)

We are not told that waiting is easy or fun or a walk in the park. It is difficult for time-focused beings like ourselves to wait. We want everything fast. Our “instant everything” culture breeds impatience. Let us not be impatient with people… or with God. Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Grace, peace, and joy, David and Sharon

Part of Friendship’s Back and Forth

STG_08482 Corinthians 7:2-4

Friendship is a two-way street. Friends reach out to each other. They delight to share life with each other, even when this requires some straight talk between them. The believers in Corinth needed to receive Paul’s words in the spirit in which he gave them. He wrote: I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you (7:3).

Paul had not said what he had to condemn them. Since we are sinners and know what sin deserves, it is too easy for any of us to walk around in a spirit of condemnation. The case is complicated for those who lack a clear understanding of the gospel. It disables them from living in conformity with the gospel. For example, when people with condemnation ringing in their ears hear the Lord’s commands, they hear condemnation instead of instruction in Christ-likeness. And so they act like they are being judged rather than helped. Paul understands such spiritual weakness, so he plainly tells them that he is not speaking this way to condemn them. They should have caught his true attitude when he reminded them of what they are in Christ and the promises they have from God. But we people can be slow to understand, and so Paul wisely reassured them. We must be willing to invest the necessary time it takes to reassure others of our love in Christ for them. Once said is rarely sufficient, especially when admonition and correction is involved. Love is patient.

Paul adds a reminder about his deep brotherly commitment to them. He resends a message about his ongoing affection for them. How we all need to do this! I have learned through sad experience that once or even a couple times is insufficient. Regretfully, life has no undo command. He wants them to know that they are in his heart! Here is where the contemporary church falls far short of the early church. Their operating attitude of heart was deep affection; ours sadly has been casual acquaintance. Vibrant Christianity does not rise out of the surface dust of casual friendship. The apostle committed to being willing to die or to live with them. Paul had the same kind of kindred spirit that Ittai the Gittite showed to David (2 Samuel 15:21). Such an attitude shows forth the power of God’s love. This is how to reassure one another! We ought to remind one another of our commitment to each other. For example, one of my friends and fellow workers in the gospel watched the movie Dave. It is about an ordinary guy who becomes a stand-in for the president and through a bizarre plot finds that the one-night temp job has become permanent. Eventually, Dave feels guilty about doing this, and leaves. But in the meantime, he wins the loyalty of a secret service agent, who says, “Dave, I would’ve taken a bullet for you.” And so, my friend said to me, “Pastor, I’d take a bullet for you.” And I think he did a number of times! Each of us should have that kind of kindred spirit for each other.

The apostle Paul reassured them about his love for them. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds (7:4). He reminded them about how he spoke to them and of them. He knew he had to do this, because of the way he had spoken to them. And they needed to know how he talked to others about them. To them, he always talked with great boldness. This is how Christians should talk with each other, since God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)., and love rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Love wants those it loves to walk in the truth (3 John 4). While love will speak kindly, it will also speak boldly, because hidden love is worthless. When he talked about them to others, he always talked with great boasting. Paul bragged about what the grace of God did in them and through them. “Here are people, brought by the Spirit from the darkness of sin, who will one day rejoice in the glory of God!” What good news it is to see hopeless sinners now recently born again from above! What good news it also is to see Christ’s people persevere in grace year after year as they head for glory. We need to regain the lost art of boasting in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Paul told them of his joy while he was suffering. This showed the depths of his delight in them. Though he suffered, he was comforted, yes filled with comfort. Hmm, do you have this same kind of interest in those with whom you share life in Christ? Not only is that true, but he also overflowed with joy! Where does such overflowing joy come from? Clearly, it comes from the grace of Christ in the gospel. What Christ has accomplished through his death and resurrection is much greater than any trouble in the world. Do you have such joy in the gospel?

Grace and peace, David