Who, Then, Is This? (Part Six)

Luke 9:18-27

“It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (9:22-27 CSB).

Third, we hear the explanatory remarks of Jesus (9:22-27). Jesus wanted the apostles to know that since he was the Christ of God, he was on a redemptive mission (9:22). God sent him to free and save his people from sin and its consequences.

God had planned for his Christ to suffer many things, to be rejected, and to die for sinners. When someone interviews for a job, it is helpful when the employer clearly sets forth the demands of the position. Reverently, let us imagine God the Father interviewing God the Son for the position of Christ. After the Father described everything in its horrid details, the Son responded that the plan was good and wise and that he was willing to do everything commanded. As the psalmist wrote of the Messiah, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8 NIV).

This must have been a shock to Peter and the others, for it seems that they were ignorant of all that the Scriptures had revealed about Christ. They read or heard selectively, paying attention to the glory parts and overlooking the suffering parts. This remains a problem for Bible readers, especially during this Covid-19 crisis. Everyone wants to hear words of comfort and hope. How many want to feel challenged to endure hardship during this time?

From this point on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples the significance of his first coming. It is the turning point of his ministry with them. He started to explain this divine necessity (“it is necessary”, 9:22) to them.

Action Step: As you teach the Gospel of Luke to someone, or read it with them, you should clearly present the significance of 9:22-26 to the person.

God had planned for the Christ to be raised to life after his suffering and death. Though Jesus would say this clearly many times, it went right over their heads. It was only after his resurrection that they understood (24:5-8, 25-27, 44-49). Do you believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? Because, 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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10 ESV).

Jesus wanted his apostles to know that since he was the Christ of God, that they must follow him (9:23-27). Jesus was not someone on a search for significance. He knew that he was the most significant person in human history and he demanded and continues to demand that all follow him.

  • You must practice self-denial and put your way of life to death daily and follow him (9:23). Notice his words “come after me” and “follow me”.
  • You must reevaluate your whole life in relation to Christ (9:24-25). Notice his words “but whoever loses his life for me”.
  • You must be willing to stand up for Christ and his teaching in the marketplace of human opinion (9:26-27). Notice his words “if anyone is ashamed of me and my words.”

True Christianity demands a change of mind and complete commitment of oneself to the Lord Jesus Christ. Has this happened to you? If it has not, you will die and then die in the Lake of Fire forever. If it has not, you are not a Christian. You will lose yourself! You must leave the way of rebellion and return to the Lord. This will only happen as by grace you see the significance or value or worth or glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Now is the moment for you to bow in faith before him. Cry out to him, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”

Grace and peace,

Up to This Point (Part Two)

dscn38511 Samuel 7:2-13

When we return to the Lord, it is easy to expect a free pass from difficulty for a time. We think, “Now that God is for me (Romans 8:31), life will be easy.” Part of the problem is a muddled evangelistic presentation that makes promises that God does not. Another source is that self-centeredness is the attitude of the times. We suppose we have denied ourselves (Mark 8:34), when we have only taken the initial step of a lifelong journey in self-denial. God does not call us to a life of ease. Salvation involves service of the living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). To be saved is not to be given assurance of party time in this world (John 16:33).

From a Biblical perspective, then, we can understand that after a revival, we might experience crisis (7:7-11). The enemies of God and his people are always seeking opportunities (7:7). From their point of view, the Philistines probably sensed danger in the religious assembly of Israel. The children of evil are shrewd in their observations. In our day, they know that a renewed church would upset their evil plans, so they strike constantly at us. Notice carefully that this crisis came when the people were returning to the Lord. How often evil seems to accompany what is good. God does not automatically make trouble disappear when we repent. He uses troubles to give us occasion to exercise our renewed faith. A change of mind on your part does not require God to dissolve all your troubles in an instant. He has an eternal plan. If you find yourself asking, “Then why bother to repent?” perhaps you should consider that you have not yet changed your mind. Your eternal relationship with God is the primary issue, not the disappearance of your temporary crisis.

So then, the crisis became an opportunity to express their faith in God (7:8). They sought the means of prayer in old covenant fashion, looking to a mediator like Samuel or Moses on other occasions. In the new covenant, our only mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). The key was that they relied on the Lord to rescue them. When we stop saying, “How are we going to handle this problem?” and pray and ask, “Lord, we trust you to handle this problem”, then we have made spiritual progress.

God helped his people (7:9-11). He helped his people while the old covenant sacrifice was being offered. God didn’t wait until the ritual was finished. God is free to act when he pleases. God used an extraordinary means—thunder. If you’ve ever lived around the Great Lakes in the summer, you know how awesome thunder can be! When God himself pushed the “thunder” button to rout an army, it must have been spectacular! How easily are the most supposedly bold people overwhelmed by lightning and thunder or ice and snow! All scoffers can try jousting with hurricanes and tornadoes, if they please. The men of Israel had only to do a mop-up operation. Where did they get their weapons? There were probably many to pick up that the Philistines had thrown down in their panic.

Hope was the outcome (7:12-13). They looked at the past. It is wise to stop and remember what God has done. Hopefully, you concluded last year by taking time to thank God for all the benefits he gave you in 2016. It is wise to be God-focused in our remembrances. “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” We need to approach our every gathering with Christ’s followers as being “in the presence of God”. This rejuvenates all our worship.

God’s past work induced them to look toward the future. The stone acted as a means to keep on recalling how God had helped them to this point. I have seen God help Sharon and I year after year. Up to this point, we can say, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, since God has helped us up to this point, year after year, don’t you think he is able to help us again in 2017? God’s faithfulness in the past and present is a sign pointing to his help in the future. God has more grace and greater grace to lavish upon us!

So join with me! Let us joyfully raise up a figurative Ebenezer, a stone of help, as we begin 2017! Let us have hope in God, for we will still praise him together! Let us confidently expect the exceeding riches of God’s sovereign grace to be poured out on us, his dearly loved people. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, David

Two Choices Contrasted

IMG_1105Ruth 1:14-15

Two young women had to make a choice one day, a choice that affected their eternal destiny. Orpah made the sensible choice according to the wisdom of this world and turned back to Moab. Naomi’s arguments convinced Orpah. In Moab there was hope for a new life with a new husband, and probably children to love and care for. Wanting a husband and children is very normal and a good, God-given desire for women. But there is more to see in her situation than that! Orpah saw two alternatives: (Ferguson)

  • Yahweh plus nothing in Bethlehem
  • Everything minus Yahweh in Moab

And so, Orpah made her choice according to human sight and opinion. Orpah looked at her situation in life in exactly the same way that Elimelech had used earlier. The fields of Moab looked greener than the land of Israel, at least from the standpoint of marriage and family. And so with a sensible choice, she walked off the pages of the Bible and into the oblivion of countless others. The living God was missing from all her sensible calculations. “She rejected the road to emptiness, but at the same time unknowingly turned aside from the one road that could have led to a life of lasting significance and meaning. The world’s wise choice to avoid emptiness leads in the end to a different kind of oblivion.” [Duguid]

Someone might object, “Poor Orpah, she didn’t know what God could do!” I’m sorry; that is simply not true. She had only to look at creation to tell her about the God who is there (cf. Romans 1:18-25). But not only is that so, but she had also heard a good word of testimony about the living God. Don’t forget the message of verse six, which is the reason Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah decided to return to Israel! My friend, God is under no obligation to give you overwhelming testimony of his love and kindness. If you only hear once of how the Lord Jesus Christ has changed the life of one of his people, you have a treasure that millions never received. Don’t play games with the goodness of God to you!

Ruth made the godly choice and clung to Naomi. The Holy Spirit choose a word (“clung”) that he used other places in the Old Testament Scriptures to indicate a deep, personal relationship (Genesis 2:24; Deuteronomy 10:20). God then used the words of troubled Naomi to test Ruth’s faith; that is, to draw out from Ruth the reality of her trust in God. God uses this way in the lives of his people (cf. Abraham, Genesis 22; Hebrews 11:17).

  • Naomi’s words revealed the true nature of Orpah’s choice. By leaving Naomi, she was “going back to her people and her gods”. Orpah might have made the “sensible choice” in the world’s opinion, but it was also an ungodly, unkind choice! Why unkind? It was unkind because she left her mother-in-law, who could have used her help.
  • Naomi urged Ruth to go back with Orpah. This is not the preferred way to try to win people to the Lord! But it tested the reality of Ruth’s faith.

What would Ruth do? Her peer in the world said by example, “There’s no hope in the Lord! Let’s grab what we can of the good life now.” And her only friend in God’s people told her “to go back to the world, because the Lord’s hand might make your life as bitter as mine!” But more importantly for those reading this article, what will you do? Will you follow the Lord Jesus Christ, if all you can be sure of in this life is suffering? Will you trust Christ that eternal glory will far outweigh all that you might suffer in this world? Please, please let the challenge of Christ ring in your heart!  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38).

Grace and peace, David