Monday, February 26, 2018

A Study in Luke Ch.9 - Jesus Our Source

In learning a new skill, there is a point at which being told how to do something isn’t enough. You need hands-on experience. You need OJT.

When Jesus decided the Disciples needed some OJT, He sent them out to do two things: proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal. To equip them for this work, He gave them power and authority over all demons and to heal all diseases. He wasn’t giving them ability but authority. They could only act on His behalf as they represented Him.

An ambassador represents the country from which He’s sent. More specifically he/she has authority to speak on behalf of the President or King. So, in essence, the ambassador’s words carries the weight of the one who sent him as though the one who sent him was actually speaking.

Paul and John demonstrated this authority with a crippled man at the Temple in Jerusalem. Act 3:6-7, 12, 16 But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!" And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened…But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? …And on the basis of faith in His name [authority], it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.

They were very clear that this wasn’t an ability they had, but an authority granted to them by Jesus. What Jesus gave them authority to do, they could do, but couldn’t claim credit for doing it. It was Him working through them.

So back when He gave that authority to the Disciples, Luke says: Luke 9:6 Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Then, Luke 9:10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done.
But it raises the question: how extensive was this authority? Was it for this one mission trip or was it now part of their ministry privilege? Could they heal anyone at any time? Or were they only able to do so when the source of this authority wanted it done?

Because of the human tendency for pride to overshadow our accomplishments, Jesus knew these men could never handle being given the freedom to heal as He could. He had no restrictions. These men didn’t have God’s wisdom regarding each person’s life. They knew what would be good, but not what was best.

That’s why He could never give them a gift to use at their discretion. At this point He couldn’t trust them.

In the Book of Acts, there’s a story about a magician named Simon who had a rude awakening about the gifts of God:

Act 8:9-11 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.

Act 8:18-21 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.

This story is after Pentecost. Peter now has discernment. So, though Simon said authority, Peter knew he meant ability because he wasn’t interested in operating this gift under the Spirit’s direction. He wanted to give the Spirit to whomever he wanted. That is a gift operated by selfish desires.

To teach the Disciples this same lesson, so they might avoid such a battle later, it is possible Jesus took that authority back for a bit. Luke 9:10b-11 Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.

I would think that with twelve men authorized to heal, this would be a great time for them to step in and share the load, help Jesus heal all who came to Him. But, still, Jesus did all the healing Himself. Why? Because maybe they needed to learn what He gave them was never to replace Him.

The people were seeking Jesus as their answer, not His representatives. When someone wants the real thing you don’t send in a substitute.

You and I never want people to come to us thinking we’re their answer. Our job is to point them to Him. An ambassador never upstages his president.

A bit later in this chapter Jesus meets a man whose son has a demon. The man came looking for Jesus to heal his son. I like Mark’s version better:

Mar 9:17-18 And one of the crowd answered Him, "Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it." Mar 9:22-23 "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" And Jesus said to him, “If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

The disciples had been given the authority to cast out demons, why couldn’t they take care of this one? It was nine against one. Did you know we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes? Michael Jordan said once that he learned more from missing a shot than making one. You can accidently make a shot but you can’t accidently miss. Perhaps failing at something would better teach them how things were to operate.

Jesus told them: this kind can only come out by prayer and fasting. What does that mean? Prayer and fasting are acts of humility—admitting with prayer and demonstrating by fasting that we are dependent on God. They reboot us, refocus us on the One who is in charge. They are, as Jesus prayed in the garden, moments that remind us it is His will we seek and not our own—that He is the One who is in charge, not us.

Was He sensing arrogance? Were they confusing authority with ability?

So, to clarify the difference, a little test: Luke 9:12-17 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place." But He said to them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people." (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, "Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each." They did so, and had them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.

Asking them to provide for so many people was beyond the scope of what they knew they could do. He hadn’t given them all power, only limited, specific power over demons and to heal, and perhaps only for that mission trip. So why tell them to feed the crowd? Again: to humble them. It’s humbling to have to admit we can’t do something.

When the Spirit would be given on Pentecost, they would be receiving tremendous power to accomplish God’s will. But today, at this point, they couldn’t handle that power. The power of God is designed to accomplish God’s purposes, not their own.

Pride would have them assume they were the source. This test reminded them He is the source. He is the one meeting the needs, not them.

He had to show them it was not always the spectacular moments when God works but also in meeting everyday needs.

On the scale of life-impacting moments, this miracle seemed less significant than the others but Jesus had to show them the promises not only covered big problems but also affected the regular stuff of life.

When God said through Peter: 1 Pet 5:7 cast your cares upon Me for I care for You, did He put any restrictions on what qualified as a care?

When Paul wrote: Phil 4:19 My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, were there any needs not covered?

When David wrote: Ps 138:8 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me, were there any loopholes he forgot to mention?

In the Model Prayer, Jesus told us to ask: Give us this day our daily bread. Why would we need to acknowledge God for something we can provide on our own? Because it’s easy for us to think we, and what we have, is the source of meeting our own needs. Things we can do for ourselves, without acknowledging God’s provisions, lessens our dependency upon Him. Was that what He was afraid that the Disciples would do? That’s why He gave them authority rather than ability, so they wouldn’t lose their need for Him.

Deut 6:10-12 Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“I just don’t want to bother God with petty stuff.” Most of life is petty stuff. I don’t think we want to leave God out of most of our life?

Sure I can take from my income and go to Kroger and buy bread, but in the bigger picture, my income, my physical ability to go to Kroger, their availability of bread are all things I can thank God for.

James said: James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

God calls us to acknowledge Him as the source of all the blessings in our life—not just those we characterize as spiritual. So, here’s Jesus doing an incredible miracle of making dinner for thousands out of a handful of ingredients and having plenty left over. He showed them His blessings are not limited by what He has to work with. So Paul, later, could write: 2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; Can we acknowledge that?

That’s the lesson: neither the authority given to the Disciples, nor our own sufficiency, are able to meet all our needs. We cannot do for ourselves what Jesus can.
So, after we learn that lesson, we now can honor Him, love Him and depend upon Him. When we do, we will agree with Paul: Eph 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Never think you don’t need the Lord.
Never just keep Him in reserve for the things you can’t handle on your own.
Never limit His concern over you.
Never stop depending upon Him.
Never believe you know better than God for what’s best in for your life.

  1. Jesus never intended to be an add-on to our lives, another interest among several; He must be the vital piece that completes us.
  2. It is within His plan that we remain dependent upon Him for all our needs.
  3. Any part of our lives in which we say, “I don’t need the Lord here,” weakens our commitment to follow Him completely. 
  4. As we learn to yield more of ourselves to Him, we will discover there is no such thing as conditional surrender to the Lord

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Study in Luke Ch 8

Luke 8:22-25 Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?"

Two significant questions are asked in this story: Where is your faith and Who is this? Let’s take the second one first. The disciples had committed to follow Jesus because of the authority of His teaching.

Luke 4:31-32 He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

Matt 7:28-29 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

But now, that authority was affecting things like: illness, death, demons, sin and now nature. What did that mean? They knew of only One who operated like that—God Himself. This took their thoughts about Jesus into a whole new realm.

Having just seen Him command the winds and waves, they realized He was superior to the forces of nature. Not only was His teaching powerful, but what He said happened. To them, Jesus was operating in God-territory. Doing what only God could do.

Moses told us about God-territory: Num 23:19 God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?  What God says, He does.

For the Jews, God existed and operated in a category of One. In the first commandment they understood they were to have no other God’s before Me. God didn’t say this in response to any threat of there being another God to take His place but it was a warning for the people to recognize His superiority and not minimize it by substituting something else higher than He was.

He had no rival, no equal to compete with. But He knew that, because of the frailty of their imaginations, unless the people intentionally acknowledged Him as God, accepting His sole position of being superior, they would let something else take precedence over Him. Most of the Old Testament is the struggle between Almighty God and His people’s failure to honor Him as such.

His words became the revelation of His character, His ability, His intentions and His ultimate plan.

In older days, a contract could be negotiated with a handshake. A man’s word was his bond, his guarantee that he would honor what he committed to.

God has always used His words as promises of His intentions. Not only did the words bind Him but they revealed the response He expected from His people. You could risk your life on them being true and hang your future onto what He said. Because what He said, He would do.

When you have unrivaled, ultimate authority, what You say carries ultimate weight.

Bring that into the New Testament: John said: John 1:1,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. John was telling us that the same unrivaled authority God expressed from the beginning was now being seen in Jesus.

Realize what that meant to whatever Jesus said or did. When He spoke, God spoke. When He did, God did. Jesus operated from that same category from which God reigns – the category of One, superior to everything else. So what Jesus said, was a word from God. And what God says, He will do.

Which brings us to two unique words used to explain how God communicates to us:
·         Logos – the subject matter of what God wants to say. It is the content of the message. It is the Scripture from cover to cover.
·         Rhema – the portion of the Logos that the Holy Spirit brings to our attention. It is when God makes a specific application of His Word to us in our current situation, personalizing the message to us specifically.

For example: the Bible gives us the Gospel message, the mystery of a personal relationship with God that He has promised from before creation to this present day, written for all people. How do we know He intended it for all people? Paul says of God, the author of that message: 1Ti 2:4 He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

That Gospel message lies within Scripture. But when we hear or read the message, the Holy Spirit taps us on the head and says, “That message is for you.” The message suddenly becomes personal. The message is no longer a general statement to all men, it is a word to us that requires us to respond.

Paul writes: Rom 10:13, 17 "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." One day I read that and felt the tap on my head and realized that the whoever was me. So I called on the name of the Lord.

Paul says a few verses later: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. The Rhema of God: the personalized word from God to me.

Faith was not created by hearing. We are born with faith—the ability to trust. A baby absolutely trusts its mom. Young children trust everything to be good for them. We learn to discern as we get older but all of us have the capacity, the ability to trust. Throughout most of our lives that trust is misplaced as it looks for some satisfying hope to connect to, but faith is there. Spiritually, it is asleep until God speaks and it wakes up. God-awakened faith seeks for Him.

Initially, when the message of the Gospel becomes personal to someone, faith says, “I want to respond to that.” If they accept the message as truth for them and give themselves to it, faith has served its role in salvation.

Paul wrote: Eph 2:8 For by grace [God’s activity] you have been saved through faith [our response]; and that [salvation is] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Faith lets us respond to the message but once our salvation is established, that same faith then becomes our lifestyle.

Hab 2:4 The righteous will live by his faith. Three times in the NT is that truth restated.
We now live within the context of faith. We are people of faith. That means we trust God and act upon what He says.

So, you can understand Jesus’ castigating question to His disciples: Where is your faith?

“It’s in there somewhere or you don’t belong to Me, so where is it? Why isn’t it operational in this moment? Why are you falling apart, thinking you’re going to perish, instead of trusting? You have the ability to believe. Why aren’t you using that ability?”

What had He told them? Let’s go to the other side of the lake. Were they to the other side yet? No. Were His words still active? Yes. So a storm in the middle of a promise doesn’t change the promise. Where is your faith when you need it?

Back the movie up to the teaching before they got in the boat and started across the lake.

Luke 8:11-15 Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

The struggle Jesus spoke of is accepting the Word into our lives or acting upon what we know is true.
A youth leader in another church would say: I’m picking up what you’re laying down. The Lord is planting seeds of truth. Are we receiving those seeds into our lives?

James 1:21-22 In humility receive the word implanted…and prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

The obstacles are Satan, shallowness (or lack of interest) and distractions. When I realize the Word comes from the One who has the authority to speak His truth into my life then I must receive whatever He says as personal to me and trust what He says, He will do.

How do I know I have received that word? The fruit. Attitudes and actions produced from seeds of His Word that God has planted within me. Fruit happens when we receive the truth and by faith apply it to what we believe.

What is fruit? Evidence that God is at work in our lives.

So Luke goes on and tells us what Jesus said next: Luke 8:16-17 Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.

Light is an exposure device. It shows things we don’t ordinarily see. It could be a person who infuriates us in the checkout line and shows us our anger. It could be that car going slow in the Fastlane and shows us our impatience. It could be a storm that suddenly rushes over us and shows us our fear. The light doesn't cause these reactions, it exposes what's in our hearts. When the light shines on us, it will show the evidence of the fruit of our faith. Either that we have confidence in God’s goodness or we don’t.

Luke 8:18 "So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."

Has what? Faith. Just like working out strengthens muscles, using faith enlarges faith. So take care how you listen. Listen with the intention of trusting what God says. Because what He says, He will do.

If we listen to what the Holy Spirit makes personal to us when we read Scripture, hear what He whispers in our ear and receive God’s message to us, in whatever we face our faith will be enough. Why? Because it is placed in a God who what He says, He will do.

  1. A child of God cannot say he/she is without faith.
  2. Our faith may be small because it has been rarely used, but size isn’t the factor.
  3. Because a mustard seed amount of faith can move a mountain, we have more than enough faith for whatever we face.
  4. The question is not whether we have faith but whether we will exercise that faith to trust in God’s goodness or not.
  5. If a storm comes in the middle of a promise, it cannot change that promise.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Study in Luke Chapter 7

A synopsis is a statement that summarizes a larger story. There is much more information and greater detail to the story, but the synopsis is the heart of the matter.

You may tell about a dark and stormy night, of the howl of the wind as it pushes the car toward the ditch, shielding your eyes from the blinding streaks of lightning, hunkering down when the thunder jarred your teeth and the pounding rain drove your wipers at full swipe. The puddling on the roadway blasting water underneath the car as though a fire hose was shooting up from the ground, the debris tossed across the road just at the outer limits of your headlights. The sweat beading up on your forehead, the coffee sloshing out of your cup onto your pants and the voice on your phone pleading with you to hurry.

You’ve given great details but we find out later that the story is about you getting to the hospital in time for the birth of your newest grandbaby. The storm isn’t the heart of the story. It’s about meeting this precious baby. Just tell me about the baby.

Much of the Gospels is synopsis, not novel, not even a condensed version. The story isn’t in the details, it is, in the simplest terms, a who did what, generally explaining something we need to know about Jesus. No one story tells us all we need to know. But added together each adds a bit more to the total picture of who He is and what He does.

Jawbreakers are made in layers. Each layer provides a different color and occasionally a different flavor to the candy. No layer fully describes the jawbreaker. You can’t pull it out of your mouth and say, “Oh, my jawbreaker is red, then again, it’s green, and later, it’s yellow.” No single layer defines the whole jawbreaker.

In Chapter 7 Luke takes us quickly through several snippets of Jesus’ activity, each showing a different layer of the total picture. He wasn’t giving us definitive stories that explained Jesus completely but glimpses that added together reveal details of who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing.

Why? Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ: the same yesterday and today and forever. Who Jesus was explains who He is, and what He did tells us what He can do. Does that matter? It matters greatly. What he can do affects our lives every day.

Jesus was met by friends of a Roman Centurion who had been sent to ask Jesus to heal this man’s servant. When Jesus was on the way, the Centurion sent additional servants to tell Jesus: Luke 7:6 "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

What do we learn about Jesus: He is our healer. God had said to Moses: Ex 15:26 "I, the LORD, am your healer." Healer is more than just one who makes us well when we are sick, or fixes our broken body when we are infirmed.

Matthew said: Matt 4:23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

The word used for healing uses means to make us whole. What are the condition of our lives that restrict us from living a whole life? Is it disease, is it soul sickness, is it the emptiness of a broken heart, is it an affliction from which we cannot function. Jesus is our healer.

As healer, He can bring about whatever it takes to make us whole. The Lord can take any circumstance in our lives and bring wholeness for whatever those circumstances have caused. Beauty for ashes.

Luke shows us that whatever the condition, Jesus can make us whole. Healing our physical condition, our emotional condition, our spiritual condition. Whatever infirms us, holds us in its grip and restricts our life, Jesus can speak a word and make us whole.

After healing the Centurion’s servant, He then met a lady whose son had died. Death is final in our world. But Jesus did a miracle that denied death its victim.

Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw the woman, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!"
Yogi Berra once said: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That applies in sports as well in life. Pulling the plug too early, giving up before you’ve tried everything, turning off the game with time left on the clock. There are plenty of ways to decide it’s over before it’s over.
Thomas Edison said: When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this—you haven’t. As long as the problem exists and there is time on the clock, it isn’t over.
Until God blows the whistle, there is always hope.

Why did Luke tell us this story? We need to know that even something as powerful as death isn’t the final word. Whatever we’re going through isn’t the end. It is an opportunity for God to accomplish what concerns us.

The story isn’t just about answering the question can Jesus raise the physically dead. He is without limitation. It is a story that makes us ask what else can be considered dead that He can bring back to life.

·         A body ravaged by disease.
·         A man kept alive on life support
·         A marriage cold and lifeless
·         A life absent of joy, hope and promise of a future.
·         A disconnected family
·         A lifelong struggle with demons and personal destruction.
·         A broken heart that seems beyond repair.

It’s not over until He says it’s over!

So after He raises the widow’s son, Luke tells us of John the Baptizer’s doubt. Jesus wasn’t fulfilling John’s expectations of what he thought the Messiah would do. He sent some of his men to Jesus for answers.

Luke 7:20 When the men came to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, 'Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'"

Ever had doubts? Ever read one of the stories and struggled to believe how this could have possibly happened. Ever wondered if all that you believe is true? Ever questioned if God is there, if heaven is real, if you have the right beliefs?

Well, you’re in good company. John the Baptizer, the miracle baby who grew up to be the forerunner of the Messiah, who saw the confirming sign of the dove descending and remaining on Jesus at His baptism, questioned if Jesus was who John thought He was.

Luke 7:22 And He answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."

Take offense – means not be tripped up. Don’t let your doubts trip you up, making you fall, stumble or stagger through life. Acknowledge your doubts then go back and look at Jesus. No one can do the things He did unless He was who He claimed to be.

Why did Luke share this snip? We need to know what to do when we have doubts.
·         What if my prayers aren’t answered yet?
·         What if the promise I claim hasn’t come through yet?
·         What if my needs remain unmet?
·         What if the problem is still raging in my life?
·         What if I asked for forgiveness and still feel guilty?

Don’t let the appearance of inactivity trip you up. Don’t let God’s silence make you think He isn’t there. Keep looking to Jesus until you are convinced that He who began a good work in you will complete that work.

The final layer Luke wanted us to see was the ability of Jesus to forgive.
Luke 7:37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." "A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  "When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly."

The story at this point seems to be about the amount of sin needing forgiveness but Jesus quickly turns that idea around to the amount of forgiveness being applied. How much? Enough to cover all the sin.

Whatever we bring to Jesus of our faults and failures, presenting to Him our rebellion and selfishness, He will forgive. If we admit the sin in our lives to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive that sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The operative word is all.

Here is a lady presenting to Jesus her entire life by a sacrifice of humility, as a slave who washes feet. Jesus saw her need was forgiveness because He could see she carried much guilt from her lifestyle.

Luke 7:47  "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." Luke 7:49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?"

What did Luke want us to see? How Jesus dealt with a sinful woman? That’s helpful but all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectation. I think he wanted us to see how powerful and abundant God’s forgiveness really is. That there is nothing in our lives He cannot forgive.

Luke told us these stories because he wanted us to see Jesus as our infinite Lord who can do whatever needs to be done.

The Centurion’s servant showed us: If we are afflicted, sick, or living with an emptiness in our hearts, He is our healer who makes us whole.

The widow’s son showed us: If we believe we have come to the end, given up, denied there is any solution or resolution to our problems, we need to remember that even death isn’t final to Jesus. He can restore what Satan has destroyed, He can return what’s been taken away, He can replace the joy that life has stolen from us. It isn’t over until He says it’s over.

John the Baptizer showed us: If we have gnawing doubts that hold back our faith and cause us to lose confidence in God’s goodness, we can look at Jesus and believe again. He showed us the faithfulness of God in all circumstances.

The sinful woman showed us: If we feel unacceptable to Jesus, marked by our sins, defined by our faults and failures, cast away from the good we wish we could claim, we need to know our Lord is willing and able to forgive. We are not equipped to carry our guilt. Jesus promised release from the burden. To enjoy that release, we must give Him our burdened souls.

If we think we can make the miracle happen in our lives, that we are sufficient to meet all our needs on our own, we are greatly mistaken. But living inside us as a child of God is the same one who did all these things. Call out to Him and trust Him for what concerns you.

  1. If we have any doubts about Jesus it is because we have failed to understand who He was is who He is.
  2. If we choose to carry our own concerns instead of giving those concerns to Him, we will break under the strain of our own lives.
  3. Faith requires us to present our needs to Him, then anticipate He will accomplish what concerns us in the way that is best.
  4. Even when we struggle to remain faithful, He will not, for He cannot deny Himself.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Study in Luke - Chapters 5/6

It has been evident throughout history that people will not willingly follow someone they feel superior to. You’ve seen it in business when a younger, less-experienced person has been promoted above those with age, skills and wisdom. In the military, a Second Lieutenant, fresh from the academy has a hard time gaining respect from seasoned Master Sergeants and war-hardened troops. Guys with life experience aren’t easily persuaded by those with education.

Peter faced a similar challenge. Jesus was asking him to, “Come follow Me.” Now, here’s a man’s man, a crusty fisherman who gives more orders than he takes, does what he wants, goes where he wants, says whatever he wants. How is he going to submit to someone else leading his life? How is he going to give control to another person?

Remember, after the big catch of fish, Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet and said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Peter is in the middle of an identity crisis. That happens when you get a glimpse of yourself stripped of ego, standing exposed for who you really are. He was humbled.

Humbling means lowering your perception of yourself. The Bible says not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. It tells us we must humble ourselves before God will lift us up, but also it shows us how He can humble us.

When Peter saw himself in contrast to who Jesus was, he was humbled. When he fell to his knees he was humbling himself.

In that moment, Peter saw that he was less of a man than he had promoted himself to be. He looked at Jesus’ purity. He saw his sin. He looked at Jesus’ purpose. He saw his floundering. He looked at Jesus’ power. He saw his weakness.

In an instant, this man who made life all about himself gained new perspective. To follow Jesus, Jesus must become the center of Peter’s life.

A few years ago, the word of the Year by the American Dialect Society in Anaheim, CA, was plutoed. It was coined when a vote involving just 424 astronomers at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Prague, on August 24, 2006, decided Pluto was no longer a planet. The word means “to demote or devalue someone or something.”

Most of us can’t handle the thought of being plutoed. We want to advance, we want to promote, we want to gain the advantage.

But to follow, we must submit—place ourselves under the authority of someone else’s leadership.
Leonard Bernstein, the famous orchestra conductor was once asked: what is the most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra? He said: second fiddle. Everyone wants the lead. Nobody wants to follow.

It would take humility for the men Jesus chose to play second to His lead to be able to follow Him.

When pride rules, it is hard to admit we need a God, a Lord, a master, to even say, we need help.
Someone said: When pride walks onto the platform, God walks off.

When Peter saw the limitations of what he brought to the table, he faced the challenge and chose humility.

Levi (or Matthew) had a similar moment.
Luke 5:27  After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house, and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Was Jesus looking at Matthew when He said this? At other times Jesus proved He could see inside the minds of people and know their thoughts. He could see into their hearts and know the sincerity of what they were saying or doing. Was this why Matthew dropped everything at the tax table and followed Jesus?

Or was he the tax collector of another story? Luke 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Here’s a man showing the kind of humility required to follow Jesus. Are we seeing a pattern yet? The path to being made right with God or to inviting Him into the issues of our lives requires us to acknowledge we are more with Him than we are without Him.

Those who don’t believe they are sick are not going to go to the doctor. Those who don’t believe they are ignorant are not going to seek information. Those who don’t believe they have a problem they can’t handle are not going to admit they need help.

Look at healing. Jesus healed many people throughout His ministry. Luke tells us of one where the man confessed Jesus as his only hope. Luke 5:12  While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him.

What made this healing unique was the confession: Lord, I have a need. You have the answer. I submit my need to You and trust You for the result. That’s humility. I can’t fix my problem. You can. I’m not the most important one here, You are.

What did John the Baptizer say? He must increase; I must decrease. Or in a more personal statement: For Him to increase, I must decrease. I will not place myself underneath the Lord, nor will I ever submit to His control over my life as long as I feel I am more important. We cannot compete with Him for who’s in control.

The Pharisees saw themselves in control of Jewish life. One day they were challenging Jesus about His obvious disregard for their traditions, specifically, the Sabbath obligations. “Why do you and your men do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” In other words, Do You think You are above our rules?

Luke 6:5 And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage…

Why? They saw Jesus acting as though He was superior to them and their beliefs, which is an interesting observation because He was! His words challenged them because they came with authority which means you have to believe or dismiss. They can’t be ignored.

So He challenged them with outcomes. Let’s play this out. According to your response, one of these two results will be true.

Luke 6:46 "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. "But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."
If you are building on the wrong foundation, your life will crumble. You will be like a man who placed his ladder on a wall and spent his whole life climbing that ladder, only to find out he had leaned it against the wrong wall. He didn’t follow the instructions.

Why are we given instructions? Because the success of the final product depends upon accurately putting the pieces together as they are designed to fit.

Instructions are burdensome to those of us who think we can accomplish the end without them. I don’t need no stinking instructions. Instructions are for those who can’t figure out what to do. Instructions are for those who need help. They are a crutch.

Ever hear that in reference to Jesus? Christianity is a crutch. Salvation is for weak people. Following Jesus is for those who don’t have what it takes to blaze their own trails. It is for the ignorant and inferior.

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m one of those. That’s me. I am the sick one who needs a Divine Physician. I am the sinful man who feels ashamed to stand in the presence of the Lord. I am the sinner, beating my chest, crying out for the mercy of God.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, the one who thinks he can justify himself apart from Me can count on his life crumbling. But, the one who humbly submits to Me, he will stand.

In South America, the llama is a cultural metaphor for arrogance. To keep a herd of llamas corralled, you don’t even need a fence. All you need is one rope circling around the herd to keep them enclosed. Just by placing it at a height between the head and base of the neck, the llamas are trapped. Rather than stooping beneath the rope, they will stand tall, proud but captive.

Why were the Nations of Israel and Judah both taken captive? They had lowered the importance of God over them, choosing to run their lives according to their own desires. They elevated themselves and their wants above Him. They plutoed God.

How did God respond: Jer 13:17 But if you will not listen to it, My soul will sob in secret for such pride; And my eyes will bitterly weep And flow down with tears, Because the flock of the LORD has been taken captive.

Pride makes us think we’re the answer. Humility reminds us He is.
·         How do I respond to the doctor’s diagnosis? Jesus
·         How do I handle the crisis of my adult children? Jesus
·         How do I face a life that’s dwindling down? Jesus
·         How do I help my grandchildren deal with life? Jesus
·         How do I rest in peace during my fiery ordeal? Jesus

  1. The hardest actions are the ones that require humility.
  2. Humility doesn’t expose weakness, it admits it.
  3. When I admit I need the Lord, I am demonstrating faith not failure.
  4. If I refuse to admit I need the Lord, I am not declaring my strength but exposing my lack of it.
  5. Since we didn’t create the life, to think we know better how it should be lived than the One who did create it, we are setting our hopes on a false foundation.