What Must I do to be Saved? [Luke 10:25-42]

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Sermon Audio [why not have a listen to the sermon?]

Whilst we often concern ourselves with questions regarding our employment, happiness and appearance, the most fundamental question that can be asked is regarding our standing with God and our eternal destination.  Within this passage, Luke shows us in a masterly way that these can only be obtained by the Law or the Gospel.

 

Love Others [Luke 10:25-37]

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[j] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

Jesus, whilst having a private conversation with His disciples [Luke 10:23-24], is interrupted by a theologian who seeks to test Him publicly by asking Him the deed or deeds that need to be accomplished “to inherit eternal life.”[1]  Jesus replies by asking him his opinions upon the matter, at which point the lawyer responds by a popular summation of the Law – love God and love others.  Interestingly, Jesus concurs, something that He does on another similar occasion [Luke 18:18-21], thereby showing that a perfect fulfilment of Law obtains for man God’s favour and eternal life.  This lawyer, however, is not happy to leave it there, “wanting to justify himself” he goes on to ask Jesus “who is my neighbour?”  It is here that Jesus shares with him a parable, which shows that our neighbour is any person who finds themselves in need, regardless of their race, religion or enmity towards us.

APPLICATION: Despite the fact that many people see Christianity as a regressive force, no one can help but acknowledge that the intrinsic worth of the individual is exclusive to Christian ethics even if the Church has not always practised it.  However, in places and in times in which it has, even “undesirables” like convicts, the handicapped and the mentally insane were treated with a dignity that was almost totally lacking in the so-called bastions of civilisation like Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.  This week why not look for ways in which we might be a better neighbour for those who are truly in need.  This could be through volunteering within the local school or a charity group for the disadvantaged, visiting people in prison or even offering help the sick or elderly people within our community.[2]

 

Love God [Luke 10:38-42]

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

Here, Luke to realise that the parable may be misunderstood and lead some towards a works-based-righteousness and therefore places another account into the text to compliment it.  Within this passage, Jesus goes to visit His dear friends Mary and Martha [John 11:5].  In this account, we find that while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching, Martha is “distracted with much serving,” so much so, that she begins to show contempt for Jesus.  Jesus responds firmly but lovingly, reminding her of the significance of His teaching over good works.  This does not mean that we are to create a false dichotomy between doctrine and deeds [James 2:17-22] like the lawyer did, but it does mean that deeds done without an understanding and love of doctrine can often lead to resentment towards Jesus and sometimes an abandonment of the faith.

APPLICATION: Historically, the Church placed its core doctrine in creeds.  Why not try and memorise either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed.  My wife and I merely read the Apostle’s Creed for a 30 day period after our evening meal and unintentionally memorised it, so it might be a lot easy than you think.

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/apostles.creed.html

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html

 

Love the Gospel

Whilst a fulfilment of the Law grants eternal life, man in his natural state, is unable to fulfil it and therefore needs somebody to fulfil the Law for him and through him.  This is the Gospel, that Christ did not need to fulfil the Law on His own behalf but fulfilled it on ours, took our sin and transmitted to us His righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21].  Having done this He fills us with His Spirit which allows us to fulfil it for ourselves [Ezekiel 36:25-28, 2 Peter 1:3].  I am not saying that the regenerate believer will not still struggle with sin though [Romans 7:14-21] but by the power of the Spirit a practical and progressive righteousness will ensue in almost all genuine cases of conversion [1 Corinthians 3:10-15].

APPLICATION: Whilst there are many who regard the filling of the Spirit as some kind of ‘second blessing,’ the Scripture teaches that it is synonymous with genuine conversion [Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-28, John 7:38-39, 1 Corinthians 12:13 and  Romans 8:9] which comes by God’s grace [Galatians 3:1-2] and is followed by subsequent in-fillings [Ephesians 5:18-21].  Therefore, I would exhort you to seek God’s empowerment for holiness daily and receive it by faith whether it is accompanied by an intense emotional experience or supernatural phenomena or not.  True authenticity of the presence of the Spirit will be evident in the way you begin to think and live and not necessarily in sensational manifestations.

 

 


[1] These “lawyers,” “scribes,” or “experts in religious law” belonged to either the Sadducees or Pharisees and were full-time students of the bible, not too dissimilar to our bible college lecturer or theologians.

[2] So as not to disempower people or bring unnecessary risk, please exercise some wisdom because not in need of help is actually looking for help.  I would advise you to take care that your deeds are not misinterpreted as manipulation or interference.  Moreover, I would ask you to exercise caution in lending or giving money particularly if you do not know if it will be misspent or cause offence.  Remember, it is better to give a hand-up rather than a hand-out.

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The Soil is Just as Important as the Seed [Luke 8:4-21]

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Sermon Link [Why not have a listen to the sermon?]

Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement and a major contributor to the development of seek-sensitive services, said of missionaries:

“They do good work.  They pour out [their] life.  They bear witness to Christ.  They teach and heal men, distribute powdered milk, and demonstrate improved agricultural methods.  But they do all these things, and much more, while their churches grow, if at all, by baptizing their own children.”[1]

Whilst I agree with his belief that the missionary must immerse himself in the culture of the host nation, speak their language; eat their food, live amongst them, use their songs and music styles and communicate the Gospel in words and ideas that can be easily understood by the host, we see that Jesus takes the opposite tack here.  Having totally immersed Himself in first century Palestinian culture and having gathered a significant following, Jesus, by way of judgement, begins to teach only in parables so that his message may be concealed to those who are uninterested and revealed to those who are truly seeking [Matthew 13:34-35, Luke 8:9-10].

In this particular parable, one which seems to be central to our understanding of all parables [Mark 4:13], Jesus begins to tell “the parable of the soils” [the parallels can be found in Matthew 13:1-23 & Mark 4:1-20], a parable which describes four reactions to the Gospel message.[2]

 

1. By The Wayside – The Ignorant Ones

And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it… The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.  Luke 8:4-5, 11b-12

Farming, in Israel in the first century, was different from farming in the West today.  All of the various fields were separated by boulders or boundary markers and people would traverse through the fields which would harden the soil and create natural walkways.  When it came to sowing, the farmer would remove the rocks and the weeds and then  scatter the seed before ploughing the ground.  This meant that he might be able to reclaim the soil that had been used as a public thoroughfare.   Sometimes when seed was sown the ground, which had been previously walked upon, was so hard that the seed was unable to penetrate it and therefore was trampled and eaten by the birds of the air.  Jesus uses this as an example of those who are the ignorant ones, those who did not understand the message and were not interested in trying to find out the meaning of the Gospel message [Matthew 13:19].

APPLICATION: Take some time to familiarise yourself with the Gospel.  What does it mean, what does it do, who is it for and how is it made effectual?  You may find it helpful to consult the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 82-93, courses like Alpha and Christianity Explored or even speak to some mature believers within your Church.

 

2. On the Rocks – The Superficial Ones

Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture …13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:6,13

Since it was normal practice for the farmer to remove the stones and the weeds and because the parable does not focus on the sower, Jesus, we can wisely suppose that this was the seed that fell on bedrock.  Israel itself, even to this day I believe, is renowned for large limestone deposits beneath the surface soil.  This seed, then, happened to fall here, and because it couldn’t grow down it went up and looked like it was going to produce a bumper crop but because it had no root it died away.  Jesus compares this with the one who starts his journey exceedingly well but is overcome by temptation.  Having said this, I do not want the reader to think that the Christian life does not involve temptation [Romans 7:14-25] and, God-forbid, failure [1 John 1:5-8] but this is the one who is not, by the grace of God, removing himself from temptation and seeking to overcome it.

APPLICATION: While the bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another [James 5:16], as Protestants, we are often reluctant to do so.  Why not find a mature and trustworthy friend to whom you can confess your major and re-occurring struggles and who can give you good honest advice on how to overcome?  They do not need to know all the details so keep it short and to the point.

 

3. Among the Thorns – The Worldly Ones

And some fell, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it…14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. Luke 8:7,14

 The third seed probably fell in an area that had already been weeded but because the roots of the weeds had not been fully removed and because the weeds were well established they grew up quicker than the seed and choked it out before the fruit could ripen.  Jesus likens this third group to those who have believed but are preoccupied with worldly things.  Maybe these things are not bad in themselves but the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” would not let the fruit become productive.

APPLICATION: Chasing and/or living for fashion, family, money, marriage, fame, work, business, hobbies, education and food can all be things that choke out the Gospel seed.  Why not get a copy of Watchman Nee’s classic “Love not the World,” which is available free on e-book and have a read?[3]  Are you someone who lives for this world or one who longs for the one to come?  If you are unsure look at what directs your life, how you spend your free time and how you use your disposal income.  It is often a great indicator.

 

4. On Good Ground – The Genuine Ones

But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. “When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”… 15 The ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:8,15

 In Jesus’ day, a good harvest was considered around ten percent; here then we have a supernatural bumper harvest, which Jesus compares to the seed that fell on the good soil.  These are the ones who have “a noble and good heart” [Kingdom character], “keep it” [they persevere] “and bear fruit with patience” [maybe not instantly but eventually they become productive].   It is these who can only truly be considered Christian, something that Jesus brings out in the immediate context [Luke 8:16-21].  This, however, does not mean that we are saved by a transformed lifestyle but it does mean that a changed lifestyle is normative if salvation is genuine [Ephesians 2:8-10] and while there may be exceptions to the rule [1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Jude 1:20-23] unless the seed falls on good ground there can be no lasting productivity and no assurance of salvation.

APPLICATION: When Billy Graham was a young man, a great evangelist called Charles Templeton mentored him and became a close friend.  Charles Templeton was a man who was not only miraculously “converted” but was considered a greater evangelist than Billy Graham at the time.  He went on, though, to renounce the faith and died as an apostate.  While only God knows what happened with the man’s soul, I would challenge you to watch the film, “Billy Graham: The Early Years.”  After watching it, I would ask that you consider recommitting your life to Jesus and asking that he might give you the grace for a full assurance of salvation, victory over sin and temptation and that you might be productive in all the areas of your earthly life.

 

 

[1] McGavran, 1970, Understanding Church Growth: Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids p.54 [brackets my own]

V Festival: A tired Pastor returns.

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Hello there, as some of you will have seen from my previous post (V Festival: The Challenge) I recently went to V festival, not as a punter but to work there, as something that became known as a Festival Pastor. This is a great experience where we give out water to all those who are thirsty or just drunk senseless. But as well as that we have a Marquee which is set out as a place of calm where we can have the conversations that really matter. The conversations about Jesus.

We each had a shirt to wear and on our shirts we had the line of scripture:

John 4:13-14

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Which is a great line because it fit in well with what we were doing, in the giving out of free cups of water, but also because we knew they would get thirsty again and that we were also there to quench the thirst that really matters, and that is the spiritual thirst. The need for Christ in their life. A thirst that nothing can quench other than Christ. This for me was a real drive to want to use the opportunities to discuss with people about Jesus. By God’s Grace, I was able to have a few conversations with people, the great thing is that you get these amazing conversations separated by drunk conversations where you find yourself discussing the Omnipitence of God, which was sprung up by a drunk man not me. But you get the conversations where actually you find that there is more beneath the exterior that they may have walked in to the marquee with. There they find that Christ is the only way. We get to have the great starter conversations, where we discuss the questions they have, but we get the opportunity to tell these people the Gospel, which for some of them will be the first time they will have heard it. Then we get to pray with them, for them. Which is a great privilege especially in the environment of V festival. My prayer for all the people we met, and everyone who received a cup of water from us, that a seed was planted and that God will  by his Holy Spirit make that seed grow, so that they will know the Love of Christ.

The Beginning of the Gospel

The Beginning of the Gospel [a sermon preached in Amblecote Christian Centre]

In popular folklore, “preacher’s kids” have become infamous for their rebellious nature and disregard for the faith and therefore it will come as no surprise that one of the most dangerous heretics of the early church was the son of a preacher.  Marcion, whose father was a bishop and who would go on to become a bishop in his own right, began to teach that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was a different god from the God of the New Testament.  Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was an angry god, a draconian law-giver and therefore taught that the Old Testament was a substandard work that depicted a substandard god.  It is unfortunate, however,  that a subtle form of Marcionism still exists today and can even be found within the pulpit and pews of many so-called bible-believing, spirit-filled churches.  This problem is perpetuated when Christians and churches are unable to answer two fundamental questions:  (1) What is the gospel?  (2) How did it begin?

What is the Gospel?

Jesus taught often about “the gospel of the Kingdom.”  This Kingdom is past (Matthew 8:11), present (Luke 17:21) and future (Luke 17:20-25) and is, well, by theologians anyway, called “the now-but-not-yet of the Kingdom.”  Paul naturally would have concurred with Jesus’ teaching  and he goes on to teach that there is only “one gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9 also see Revelation 13:8, 14:6) which was concealed to the Old Testament saints (Romans 4:2-4) and is now been revealed to the New Testament saints, that is, that man has always been saved sola gratis, sola fide, sola Christi – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8).  Does this mean that the gospel is merely synonymous with individual conversion?  Definitely not!  The Gospel is that by which man is reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18), reconciled to creation (Isaiah 11:6-9, Revelation 21), reconciled to his fellow man (Galatians 3:28) and reconciled to himself (Romans 8:1).  In a term, cosmic reconciliation (John 8:24, Romans 8:18-23, 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 2:8-11, Colossians 1:16, 19-20).  So how did it all begin?

How did it Begin?

Having disobeyed God (Genesis 3), the relationship between man and God (v8-11), man and creation (v13-14, 17-19), man and his fellow man (particularly among the sexes and among the generations) (v7, 12, 16) and man and himself was irrevocably shattered (v7, 17-19).  Not because of man’s goodness or because of a sacrifice or obedience to any law but by grace, God pursues the sinner because He is the missionary God (v8-9), He points out the consequences of their sin (v14-19), makes the first proclamation of the Gospel (v15) (this is known as the “proto evangelion” or “first gospel”), makes the first  blood sacrifice as a foreshadow of the One who is to come (v21) and forbids man to remain eternally within his miserable condition without an offer of hope (v24).   In light of this truth there is no way that we can see that God of the Hebrew Scriptures differs from the God of the New Testament in any way, nor that the man or creation will be saved by anything apart from the Gospel.  R C Sproul writes:

“Creation, both animate and inanimate, personal and impersonal, which is under the dominion of man – the rocks, the trees, the hills, the valleys, the seas, the plants, the animal kingdom.  These aspects of the created order participate in the anticipation of the future manifestation of glory …The Bible does not teach the annihilation of this planet, but rather its renovation and redemption.  The Scripture promises a new heaven and a new earth: a cosmic transformation whereby the work…effected by Christ will not only bring renewal, sanctification and glorification to man…but…to our natural world.

This is the Gospel and we are called to participate in it (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), so what practical steps will you take this week for the furtherance of the Kingdom?

V Festival: The Challenge

vfestival_logo_2013Well Hello I’ve now posted my second blog but I am now however off to V festival. I am not going as a punter. I am going with a Church of England team, We give out water, but we also look to have great conversations with people who come to our Marquee. This is the Third year I will have done it now. Every year a new challenge has appeared. But with that has come great conversations and hopefully some conversions. The Passage that I am going to take with me this time to the V festival is :

Colossians 3:15-17

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The reason for this, is it is very easy to just be used as a service at V fest’ To be just used as a watering hole, and get into the wrong conversations with people. But it should be everything that our team does should all be done “In the name of the Lord Jesus” Because at the end of the day, that is what we want, We want The Lord Jesus glorified. We love people. That is why we help them in any way we can.  We love them so much and we want the one thing they really need, for them to know the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We should try to make this happen, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the conversations that we have, in the way we act as a team, the servant ministry, and in the Love that we have for them. After all,  the love we have is tiny compared to the love that Christ has for them.

But with this boldness there is always the risk that we will be bombarded by Satan. But we need not fear, for we have the victory in Christ. We need to remember, that even at 2am, when abuse is hurled at us, people saying awful demonic things:  we have the victory! Christ has won!

Please if you can, Pray for the team, that God moves At V Festival, That there is encouragement. I will post about it, when i return.